“You’re Not Part of the Family”: Understanding the Turning Points and Family System Consequences of High Conflict Mother-/Daughter-in-Law Relationships
Anderson, Whitney Allison
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Popular culture representations of in-law relationships are frequently negative, and research has affirmed the communication difficulties associated with these non-kin, nonvoluntary relationships. Mother-in-law/daughter-in-law (MIL/DIL) relationships face unique challenges, as these women compete for the position of “kinkeeper,” or the person who manages relationships throughout the family. When MIL/DIL relationships are characterized by conflict and negative feelings toward one another, the family system suffers. To better understand the implications of “high conflict” MIL/DIL relationships on entire families, 27 DILs were interviewed about the turning points they had experienced with their MILs and the repercussions of the MIL/DIL relationship throughout the family system. Nine turning point categories emerged inductively from the data, along with several consequences for relationships throughout the family system, including DIL/husband, MIL/grandchildren, and husband/mother. Findings indicate high conflict MIL/DIL relationships do not just lead to negative outcomes for the two women involved, but also for other members across the family system.