The Father-in-law’s Relationship with His Son-in-law: A Preliminary Understanding

Professor Geoff Greif and Associate Professor Michael Woolley have had their research article "The Father-in-law’s Relationship with His Son-in-law: A Preliminary Understanding" published in Smith College Studies in Social Work.


Little information is available about fathers-in-law and their relationship with their sons-in-law. The authors draw from a mixed-methods study of 35 fathers-in-law to describe how three fathers-in-law with highly positive son-in-law relationships and three fathers-in-law with difficult son-in-law relationships talk about those relationships. All three fathers-in-law with positive relationships are married, had good relationships with their parents-in-law, treat their sons-in-law like family members, have good relationships with their daughters, and believe their daughter and son-in-law are a good team. Some of these fathers-in-law worked through issues with their sons-in-law to a positive resolution. The three fathers-in-law with difficult relationships had varied relations with their parents-in-laws, are close with their own children but keep their sons-in-law at an emotional distance and often communicate with them through their children (the son-in-law’s spouse). One father-in-law believes his daughter and son-in-law are a good team. These fathers-in-law believe their sons-in-law show unsettling traits and have, as a result, grown more distant from them with time. Clinical implications and suggestions for future research are included.


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