Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in: Communication Quarterly Vol. 63, No. 1, January-March 2015, pp. 62–8


Copyright: 2015 Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Used by Permission.


This study focused on hurtful messages daughters-in-law (DILs, N = 132) reported receiving from mothers-in-law (MILs). Results reveal various hurtful message types: under- and over-involvement, personal attacks, and hurt communicated to or through a third party. Grounded in attribution theory, we examined DILs’ attributions for MILs’ hurtful messages and their perceived agreement with their husbands’ reasoning for the message. Our findings illuminate distress-maintaining and relationship-enhancing attribution biases for MILs’ behaviors, such that DILs who were less satisfied with their MILs tended to make more internal attributions for MIL hurtful behaviors, and more satisfied DILs tended to make more external attributions. The degree to which a DIL believed she and her husband interpreted his mother’s behavior similarly was also important and positively predicted marital satisfaction. Findings add to the growing portrait of in-law communication, offering directions for hurtful messages and attribution theorizing in the in-law context.