Sons-in-law and their fathers-in-law: Gaining a preliminary understanding of an understudied family

New research by SSW Professors Geoff Greif (r) and Michael Woolley (l) has been published in the Journal of Family Social Work. The article, is titled "Sons-in-law and their fathers-in-law: Gaining a preliminary understanding of an understudied family relationship."

ABSTRACT

With more than 2 million couples marrying each year in the U.S. (CDC, 2015), the need for understanding in-law relationships that are newly formed with the marriage and continue for decades, is important. While women’s in-law relationships have been explored, little is known about how men view their in-law relationships. The focus here is on sons-in-law’s relationship with their fathers-in-law. We explore relationship dynamics from the perspective of sons-in-law with a focus on those whose relationships seem to be close and those that seem to be distant based on analyses of qualitative interviews. Six cases are highlighted: three cases where the sons-in-law feel close and three where the sons-in-law feel distant. For those who feel close, relationships tend to coalesce around sons-in-law joining families where fathers-in-law have warm relationships with their daughters, value family, are well-liked, and maintain boundaries. For those who feel distant, relationships are characterized by the emotional withdrawal and physical absence of the fathers-in-law, by some emotional distance between the fathers-in-law and their daughter, and by the sons-in-law being open to more contact but resigned to it not being forthcoming. Clinical implications and areas of future research are offered.

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