Ching-Fen Lee
Department of Human Development and Family Studies National Normal University, Taipei
Shain-May Tang
Department of Living Sciences National Open University, Taipei

The main purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law, as it developed in the modern society. With changes in society, more and more newlyweds choose to live “near the wife’s parents.” Traditionally, paternalism has dominated families in Taiwan; the relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are based on the tradition of “living with the husband’s parents.” Thus far, research on the relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law has been neglected. Our study began with a case centered on a family of newly-weds who chose to “live near the wife’s parents.” We analyzed the family before marriage, after marriage, and after childbirth. Semi-structured interviews were conducted; apart from the father-in-law and son-in-law, the mother-in-law and daughter were also interviewed. Results indicated that: (1). The development of the relationship between a father-in-law and son-in-law can be likened to the weaving process of cotton prints — through the process of knowing each other (reeling off raw silk from cocoons), interaction (spinning), integration after marriage (weaving), and incorporation after the birth of third generation; (2). Although the life course theory provides different perspectives on understanding the relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law, the five principles of the theory are all important in different ways when applied to interpret the different stages of the development of the relationship; (3). It was not possible to interpret the relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law using the ideas derived from rights and obligations established around the concentric circles with male-linage at the core.

Keywords: narrative research, father-in-law and son-in-law relationship, intergenerational relationship, in-law relationships.

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