Family tensions are most likely caused by parents not getting on with their son's wife
The age-old tension between parents and their son’s wife has been ranked as one of the major causes of long-term estrangement in families according to new Cambridge University research.
A unique study of long-term rifts in families in Britain found that parents are not only more likely to lose contact with male children than female children after they get married but that the clash is as likely to centre around the son’s in-laws are as his wife.
Rifts between parents and sons typically last around a third longer than those with daughters, the research, carried out with the charity Stand Alone, which supports people coping with family estrangement, also shows.
The findings provide backing for the time-honoured saying that a son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all her life.
Researchers also found that Christmas is by far the most difficult time of the year for people coping with family estrangement.
And that seven out of 10 of those who have lost touch with relatives fear talking to others about because of a “stigma” around the subject.
Just over 800 people who have been in contact with Stand Alone were surveyed by Dr Lucy Blake and Prof Susan Golombok of Cambridge’s Centre for Family Research about the causes of the estrangement in their own families and the effect on them personally.
Overall they found that children are around five times more likely to cut off contact with their parents than vice versa.
The most common reason for parents to become estranged from their daughter was a “traumatic event”, cited in a third cases, while the biggest source of rifts between parents and sons were issues relating to the parents’ divorce, which was highlighted in 37 per cent of cases.
One in four parents who were estranged from a son listed issues relating to the son's marriage as a factor behind the rift and a quarter also selected "issues relating to the in-laws".
For parents estranged from daughters, 23 per cent mentioned issues around marriage and only 14 per cent cited tensions with the in-laws.
In a section of the survey in which people were asked to explain in more detail, one parent wrote: “My son and I had a very strong loving relationship for 25 years.
“He met his soon‐to‐be wife and our relationship and his relationships with everyone on his side slowly went away.
“Everyone that knew him including friends and family saw this and felt this. He disowned anyone that does not like his now wife.
“My relationship with him was the last one.”