U of M discovers why your spouse won't forgive you: It's the mother-in-law's fault

Categories: Science

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When love sucks: now you've got another reason to blame your mother
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​Can't get along with your spouse? Jessica Salvatore, a University of Minnesota doctoral student, has one explanation: it's his mother's fault.

Several years back, study participants in their 20s were asked to come into the research lab to talk about an issue they didn't agree on. Then, after a couple of minutes to cool down, they had to spend a few minutes talking about something that wasn't conflict-ridden. And looking back at that second conversation, Salvatore noticed some interesting trends.

No matter how heated their argument, some couples were able to move on smoothly. Others simply got stuck.

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Jessica Salvatore knows why you don't fight fair
​The difference, it turns out, had a lot to do with their mothers.

Researchers at the U have been following this particular group of people since they were born in the mid-1970s. When the researchers looked back at observations from the 1970s, when the participants were 12 months to 18 months old, and they noticed a link between the couples' conflict behavior and the quality of attachment with their mothers, according to Salvatore's paper published last month in Psychological Science.

Participants who had been securely attached to their moms had an easier time moving beyond the rough conversation and calming down. Those who were insecure as babies had a tougher time as adults.

Moms, take heart--we know there's plenty of information out there making you feel blamed for everything. And actually, this study isn't supposed to do that at all, Salvatore says. Moms do the best they can.

The study specifically didn't measure personality traits of the children, so it's hard to know how much personality in childhood and in adulthood contributed to conflict-management. But fussy babies are just as capable of bonding with adults and feeling secure. And don't worry--fussy babies aren't doomed to fight with a future spouse

"Just because a kid gets really upset when mom leaves, that doesn't necessarily mean
that the relationship with that child and the mom is insecure," Salvatore says. "It really
has to do with that child's confidence in the caregiver to make them feel better when they're feeling upset."

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