News Release

Parents have more conflicts with their in-laws than do childless couples

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Academy of Finland

Intergenerational relations include various forms of help and support but also tensions and conflicts. Although relations with in-laws are the subject of many anecdotes and proverbs across cultures, they remain little studied in contemporary societies. A new study investigates how being a parent is associated with conflicts between family generations. The research is part of the Generational Transfers in Finland - research project lead by Professor Anna Rotkirch and funded by the Academy of Finland.

Using survey data from Finland with over 1,200 respondents, the authors studied conflicts that couples reported having with their own parents and their in-laws.

Overall, Finns reported higher conflict occurrence with their own parents than with their in-laws. Compared to childless couples, couples with children were as likely to report conflicts with their own parents. However, they were more likely to report conflicts with their parents-in-law. The results took into account how frequently family members were in contact with each other and how emotionally close they felt, as well as other sociodemographic factors.

Previous studies have shown that in-laws become more "kin-like" to each other when a grandchild unites kin lineages. Treating an in-law almost as biological kin can make the adults involved feel closer to each other and help each other more, what has been called a "kinship premium". This study documented evidence also of a "kinship penalty". As in-laws become more kin-like through the presence of a grandchild, their mutual conflicts increase.

Childcare provided by grandparents is of great help to parents of young children, but may also be a source of conflicts. "Daughters-in-law were more likely to report conflicts when their mother-in-law provided more grandchild care", says researcher Mirkka Danielsbacka. "This indicates that the increase in conflicts between in-laws are related to grandchild care."


Article: Danielsbacka, M., Tanskanen, A. & Rotkirch, A. (2017) The "kinship penalty": Parenthood and in-law conflict in contemporary Finland. Evolutionary Psychological Science. DOI 10.1007/s40806-017-0114-8

More information:

Senior researcher Mirkka Danielsbacka, Department of Social Research, University of Turku.
Phone: 029 450 3063, e-mail:

Senior researcher Antti O. Tanskanen, Department of Social Research, University of Turku
Phone: 029 450 3090, e-mail:

Research professor Anna Rotkirch, Population Research Institute, Väestöliitto - Finnish Family Federation
Phone: +358-40-7763086, e-mail

Generational transmissions in Finland- research project,

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Leena Vähäkylä
tel. +358 295 335 139

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