Wives ‘programmed’ to fight with mother-in-laws

A psychologist from Cambridge university has discovered that wives are ‘programmed’ to fight with their mother-in-laws

A psychologist from Cambridge university has discovered that wives are ‘programmed’ to fight with their mother-in-laws, shedding light on centuries of conflict between women.

Dr Terri Apter, a psychologist and senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge, carried out the research for her book What Do You Want From Me?, which is published this month.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, she said: ‘The conflict (between wives and mother in laws) often arises from an assumption that each is criticising or undermining the other woman. But this mutual unease may have less to do with actual attitudes and far more to do with persistent female stereotypes that few of us manage to shake off completely.’

‘Both the mother and the wife are struggling to achieve the same position in the family – primary woman. Each tries to establish or protect their status. Each feels threatened by the other.’

Dr Apter interviewed more than 200 people, including 49 couples, when researching her book. She attended family parties and meetings so she could observe women with their mothers-in-law and study the family dynamics for herself.

She told the Mail: ‘It’s a tragedy. This impasse divides women who should have so much in common, and who could benefit from each other’s friendship. It causes both sides terrible unhappiness and distress.’

International research backs Dr Apter’s ideas up. A Japanese study published in 2008 found that women living in multi-generational households, with grandparents, adult children and young children under one roof, were two to three times more likely to experience coronary heart disease than women living with just a spouse.

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