It is usually husbands who crack the jokes about difficult, interfering mothers-in-law.
But their wives probably have more reason to complain.
A study of hundreds of families has found that mothers are far more likely to feud with a daughter-in-law than a son-in-law.
Nearly two-thirds of daughters-in-law accused their husband's mother of 'unreasonably jealous maternal love'.
A similar proportion of mothers-in-law complained they had been isolated and excluded by a female addition to the family.
Dr Terri Apter, a psychologist at Newnham College, Cambridge, has spent 20 years researching the type of battles seen in the film Monster-in-Law, starring Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez.
She interviewed 49 couples and 156 other people, and drew on past studies to compile her new book, What Do You Want From Me?
She said: '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.
'Mother-in-law and daughter-in-law conflict often emerges from an expectation that each is criticizing or undermining the other. 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.'
These 'norms' include the fact that wives are still usually in charge of the cooking, cleaning and children's welfare - opening them up to criticism from an older woman who has done it all before.
And many women cannot break the habits of childhood, when they ousted rivals from playground cliques using subtle and indirect insults over extended periods of time. Dr Apter said one woman she spoke to began receiving messages from her mother-in-law-to-be two months before the wedding.
Jenny, 26, from North London, said one warned: 'My son thinks about me every day, every minute of the day, every second of every minute of the day.' Other letters were critical, intrusive or seeking pity.
Another interviewee, mother-in-law Annie, 64, from Yorkshire, said: 'My daughter-in-law is so cold towards me.
'She begrudges any time or attention my son gives to me and takes every opportunity to minimise the importance and depth of bond he and I have.'
2011-05-19 08:30 编辑：kuaileyingyu