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Mother-in-Law/Daughter-in-Law Quantitative Highlights

Survey and Interview Respondents:

807 women from 49 states across the US

Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships are complicated. In our study, we learned that some are wonderful—filled with mutual love and respect and some are described as strained, tense or absolutely terrible. However, a high concentration skews toward positive rather than negative. This is true for both MILs and DILs, but with higher satisfaction among MILs than DILs.  


We looked at several aspects of the relationship to learn more about the complexities, like whether or not children had an impact on the relationship, whether the DIL and her spouse (and children, if there are any) spend more time with her side of the family or her spouse’s side of the family and if MILs were satisfied with the time spent. We looked at whether a DIL’s satisfaction with the relationship had any bearing on how much time she and her family spent with each extended family. We also asked DILs who in their family makes the decisions for leisure activities, such as dining out, going to movies, seeing friends and family, etc., to get an idea of who in the family holds the social power, so to speak.


Some results were confirming, some were surprising.

Relationship Satisfaction


Although this relationship gets a bad rap, overall the MIL/DIL connection may not be as dreadful as society would have us believe. In fact, in many cases, it’s downright affectionate.


More than half of DILs (51%) say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with their MIL. Thirty-one percent of DILs say they are very satisfied.


Three quarters of MILs say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their relationship with their DIL.


A low percentage of MILs (5%) are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. However, the picture with DILs isn’t as great—20% of them say they are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their MIL relationship. So while DILs are still largely satisfied, the distribution is more even than that of MILs.

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Does the presence of children/grandchildren affect the MIL/DIL relationship?

The study shows that children can affect MIL/DIL relationships. In many cases, the relationships are affected in a positive way. Fifty-eight percent of MILs say children changed the relationship for the better. Thirty-six percent of DILs say the same.


More DILs (44%) say the relationship didn’t change after the birth of children, while 39% of MILs say the relationship remained unchanged.


It’s interesting to note, however, that 20% of DILs say that after they had children, the relationship with their MILs changed for the worse. Only 3% of MILs say the relationship changed for the worse.

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Time Spent with Each Side of the Family


DILs (with her spouse and any children) spend more time with her side of the family than with her spouse’s side of the family. But it’s closer than you might think.


Thirty-eight percent of DILs say they spend more time with her side of the family, while 35% say they spend more time with her in-laws. Twenty-seven percent say they spend equal amounts of time with each side of the family.

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MIL Satisfaction with Time Spent


More than half of MILs (51%) are satisfied or very satisfied with the amount of time their child, DIL and family spend with her. Only 9% are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.

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DIL Relationship Satisfaction and Time Spent With Each Family


Evidence of a direct correlation between DILs' happiness with the MIL relationship and the amount of time she and her spouse spend with her in-laws may not be surprising, but it is compelling. DILs who are very dissatisfied with their MIL relationships tend to, with their spouse and any children, visit their in-laws less often. Sixty-six percent of them report spending less time with the spouse’s side of the family and more with hers.


When the relationship is good, you see the same correlation at work, and it might be even more powerful—52% of DILs who are very satisfied with their MIL relationships visit their in-laws more than their own side of the family. Thirty-three percent of them say they spend equal time with each side.

DIL satis and time spent graph.jpg

Who holds the social power?


DILs were asked: In your household, who initiates most of the social plans for your family (e.g., going out to eat, going to the movies, activities and dinner with others, etc.)?


Sixty-one percent say they make most of the decisions about social events as compared to only 5% whose spouses make the social decisions. Thirty-four percent say she and her spouse make the decisions together.

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