Daughters-In-Law and Mothers-In-Law: Determinants of Relationship Happiness

Cynthia F. Link, University of Michigan

Despite much emphasis on the extended family system in many non-Western settings, research on dynamics of these relationships is sparse. This study investigates the impact of family integration on a fundamental relationship in the Nepalese extended family: the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. I hypothesize that when a daughter-in-law is integrated into her husband's family she perceives a happier relationship with her mother-in-law. Using individual interview data, I test two mechanisms of family integration: a daughter-in-law's childbearing experiences and religiosity. Empirical analyses demonstrate that the more children she has born, the happier the daughter-in-law perceives the relationship. The number of sons she has born yields even stronger results. A daughter-in-law's religiosity also increases her reported happiness in her relationship with her mother-in-law. Religiosity retains a strong positive impact even when childbearing experiences are considered. These findings point to the importance of studying in-law relationships as a particular aspect of the kinship system.

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Presented in Session 164: Intrahousehold Relationships in Non-Western Societies