London, Dec 1 : A new research has shown that women find mothers-in-laws hardest to deal with, and the friction often leads to long-term unhappiness and stress.
The study led by Dr Terri Apter, a psychologist and senior tutor at Newnham College, Cambridge University involved 49 couples and 156 other people and found that women accused their mothers-in-law of showing unreasonably jealous, maternal love towards their sons.
And the coldness was found to be mutual as mothers-in-law complained that they had been isolated and excluded by their sons' wives.
"Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law conflict often emerges from an expectation that each is criticising or undermining the other," the Telegraph quoted Dr Apter as saying.
"But this mutual unease may have less to do with actual attitudes and far more to do with persistent female norms that few of us manage to shake off completely.
"As they struggle to achieve the same position in the family as primary woman, each tries to establish or protect their status, each feels threatened by the other," she added.
The research found that feuds often occurred when daughter-in-laws and experienced mother-in-laws clash over who knows best about cooking, cleaning and children's welfare.
In many cases, Apter discovered that the rivalry became more personal and emotionally charged.
The study showed that 75 per cent of couples have problems with an in-law but just 15 per cent of mother-in-law/son-in-law relationships were difficult.
"Men are better at avoidance strategies when the in-laws are visiting.
"But women can't keep a low profile. For all the changes there have been, issues such as cooking, behaviour of children and how a table is set or a meal presented are things that affect a woman's sense of self-worth and she is judged on them," she added.