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Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (seated) with his two sons-in-law Prince Ludwig August of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Prince Gaston of Orléans during the Paraguayan War, 1865

A parent-in-law is a person who has a legal affinity with another by being the parent of the other's spouse. Many cultures and legal systems impose duties and responsibilities on persons connected by this relationship. A person is a child-in-law to the parents of the spouse, who are in turn also the parents of those sibling-in-laws (if any) who are siblings of the spouse (as opposed to spouses of siblings). Together, the members of this family affinity group are called the in-laws.[1]


A father-in-law is the father of a person's spouse.[2] Two men who are fathers-in-law to each other's children may be called co-fathers-in-law, or, if there are grandchildren, co-grandfathers.


A mother-in-law is the mother of a person's spouse.[3] Two women who are mothers-in-law to each other's children may be called co-mothers-in-law, or, if there are grandchildren, co-grandmothers.

In comedy and in popular culture, the mother-in-law is stereotyped as bossy, unfriendly, hostile, nosy, overbearing and generally unpleasant. They are often depicted as the bane of the husband, who is married to the mother-in-law's daughter. A mother-in-law joke is a joke that lampoons the obnoxious mother-in-law character.

Some Australian Aboriginal languages use avoidance speech, so-called "mother-in-law languages", special sub-languages used when in hearing distance of taboo relatives, most commonly the mother-in-law.

A mother-in-law suite is also a type of dwelling, usually guest accommodations within a family home that may be used for members of the extended family.

Parent-in-law relationships

Parent-in-laws are often viewed as either a source of conflict or a source of support in a marriage relationship. Jealousy, competition, differences, and disillusioned expectations can cause conflict to arise in these relationships. The perception of parent-in-laws as negative influences on your marriage leads to the characterization of female in-laws as particularly difficult. The stereotyped mother-in-law joke finds humor in the reality of conflict with in-laws. Positive influences have also been noted as in-laws can be a found family for partners/child-in-laws who are not as close to their own family.[4]

People believe that negative relationships with in-laws will have a disastrous effect on the future of their marriage.[5] However, the amount of connection to parent-in-laws has not been found to influence the success of their children’s marriage. The lack of marriage success may not fall on conflict in the parent-in-law relationship, but on whether the children-in-law are on the same page about conflicts. Thus, discordant perceptions exist between spouses and their perceptions of their relationships with their in-laws, and it is disagreements on those connections that negatively affect marriage outcomes.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "in-law". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  2. ^ "father-in-law". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  3. ^ "mother-in-law". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  4. ^ Silverstein, Judith L. (1992). "The problem with in-laws". Journal of Family Therapy. 14 (4): 399–412. doi:10.1046/j..1992.00469.x – via Wiley Online Library.
  5. ^ Bryant, Chalandra M. (2001). "The Influence of In-Laws on Change in Marital Success". Journal of Marriage and Family. 63 (3): 614–626. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00614.x. JSTOR 3654637 – via JSTOR.
  6. ^ Fiori, Katherine L.; Rauer, Amy J.; Birditt, Kira S.; Brown, Edna; Orbuch, Terri L. (2021). "You Aren't as Close to my Family as You Think: Discordant Perceptions about In-laws and Risk of Divorce". Research in Human Development. 17 (4): 258–273. doi:10.1080/15427609.2021.1874792. ISSN 1542-7609. PMC 8133523. PMID 34025298.
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