THE EFFECTS OF IN-LAW INTERFERENCE ON MARRIAGE: A CASE STUDY OF SELECTED COUPLES IN OWO AND AKURE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREAS, ONDO STATE.

Kadiri Kamoru.O1 and Akinkurolere Susan Olajoke2 (1 Department of Electrical/Electronics, Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria, 2 Department of Languages, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria)

1. Introduction

Marriage is divine plan of God for man as it is usually likened to the relationship between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5:21-33). Marriage is essentially important to be understood in this study as it serves as the beginning of family union, which is recognized in any society. Some scholars have argued that marriage is a recognized social institution (Burgess & Locke, 1945; Durkheim, 1997; Goode, 1963). Everybody is related based on one family or the other since it is believed that marriage makes a family. Marriage (also called matrimony or wedlock) is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.[[1]] From this definition, it is obvious that marriage serves as a means through which people are bound together. Thus, two families enter into a relationship that establishes another family. This relationship is known as in-law relationship. Although there are different types of marriage which range from monogamy to polygamy (polygamy and polyandry), yet, Girgis et al (2010) define marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together, and renewed by acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction [[2]]

Societal values, religious beliefs associated with marriage go a long way to influence people perception of what marriage is to an individual. In the eastern Nigeria, any child born out of wedlock is regarded as not belonging to the biological father until the bride price is paid. Also, children from outside wedlock are referred to as bastards.

Most Christians lay claim to I Timothy 1:6 that states that ‘if any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly’ and the fact that God actually provided Adam with a wife (Eve) [[3]], and not two wives as practiced some characters even in the Bible. As such, Christians see marriage as part of the design of God for man and do not depend on the culture of the society. But the Islamic religion permits more than one wife as long as the man can take good care of them while most practices in traditional religion encourage polygamy.

Be as it may, marriage ceremony is usually celebrated in the society and it is also regarded as a thing of honour which the Bible gives credence to [[4]] Only few people do not marry based on choice or faith[[5]] . Since Marriage is not mandatory, it is therefore not an offence for anyone whether male or female to remain unmarried. Officially, marital status include: single, married, divorce, widowed, and separated.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Marriage is concept that relates to all aspects of human endeavours and it could be studied from different approaches which from religion, social, historical to legal. It is noteworthy that marriage has received attention by various scholars. Studies such as Towers (2012) and Bernie (2013) have identified interference, especially from in-law, in marriage as one of the major problems associated with marriage. As it is observed that this gap exists in previous studies, this

study intends to make a shift from the perception of in law interference as basically a major problem to examine the overall effects of in-law interference from both negative and positive sides of the coin. Hence, this research is carried out.

1.3 Aim and Objectives of Study

The research study is set out with the aim of investigating the effects of in-law interference on marriage among selected couples in Owo and Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State for the purpose of achieving the following objectives:

  1. to investigate the effects of in-law interference among couples;
  2. to differentiate between positive and negative effects; and

iii. to examine the extent to which in-law interference contribute towards crises and divorce in Marriage.

1.4 Scope of Study

This study will be exclusively committed to the effects of in law interference on marriage among selected couples in Owo and Akure South Local Government of Ondo State. It might be relatively difficult, to extend the study beyond the two local government as a result of time limit. Hence, for the purpose of detailed and thorough investigation, there is the need to restrict the data for analysis to two major towns that cut across two senatorial districts in Ondo State: Akure and Owo. As such, it is essential to state that the study excludes other concepts that create effects on marriage either directly or indirectly. The major concern of the study is in-law interference and its effects on marriage.

1.5 Justification of Study

This study seeks to contribute to the interpretation of the roles and functions of in-law interference on marriage. Ordinarily, people attribute certain problems in relationships to interference. It is imperative that when a marriage is contracted, in-law enter into a lifetime relationship, therefore a research topic that will investigate and examine the level of in-law’s interference and the effects on marriage is important. It is against this background that we intend to focus, more importantly, on experienced couples that have been married for a minimum of five years. Hence, such study that provides an enquiry into the perception of couples on the effects of in-law interference on marriage demands scholarly attention as it will provide further insight into marriage and factors affecting it.

1.6. Research Questions

The research questions that were logically generated from the study are as follows:

  1. What are the ways by which in- law interference in marriage among couples in Owo and Akure South Local Government in Ondo State?
  2. What are the effects of in- law interference on marriage among couples in Owo and Akure South Local Government in Ondo?
  3. What are the differences between positive and negative effects of in-law interference on marriage?

1.7. Expected Contribution to Knowledge

The study contributes to knowledge in the field of Religion and Sociology by amplifying the effects of in-law interference on marriage. This is meant to provide more intellectual insight to the study of marital issues and also enhance the frontiers of in- law involvement in marriage. It is our hope that this study will lend a voice to academic debates that bother on in-law relationships in marriage and by making a contribution that will enrich our understanding of the likely effects that undue interference that pose to marriage.

2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW

Marriage as a social phenomenon which affects every aspect of human life (Gove et al 1983) is a subject that have received scholarly attention from various fields (Musick and Bumpass 2012,Cherlin 2003; 2004, Waite and Gallagher 2000, Nock 2005, Evenson and Simon 2005, Quah 2008).). These studies include so many issues that spring up in marriage which includes depression, parenting, happiness, worry, kin, health, strains and interference.

There are different types of interference which include work interference and family interference[[6]] but the focus of this study is in-law interference which is a kind of interference in marriage. In-law interference, to some people can lead to divorce. There is no doubt, several studies abound on divorce (Axinn and Thornton 1992, Park and Raymo 2013, Pearlin and Johnson1977).

Meyer (2013) defines divorce as ‘a legal action between married people to terminate their marriage relationships. It can be referred to as dissolution of marriage and is basically, the legal action that ends the marriage before the death of either spouse.’ This is quite different from seperation[[7]] or which is regarded as judicial separation in legal term. Mitchell (2010) discusses various errors and problems associated with marriage that could lead to divorce, no doubt, undue interference which could emanate from either family or friends are part of it. Also, to Towers (2012), undue in-law interference could lead to termination of relationships at any time or level’ he opines that:

Families and relationships can either work out to be a dream come true or they can have an adverse effect on a relationship. No matter how much a couple can love each other, friction can always be caused by families getting involved. This is not to say the interference is meant in a bad way, but nonetheless sometimes parents simply cannot let a day pass without calling on you for one reason or another

Hence, couples struggle to manage this major issue in their marriage. They devise several methods which may or may not work well in addressing in-law interference. In consonance with this, Beirne (2013) posits that ‘Although cleaning may not be the in-law issue you personally deal with, it reflects one of the many ways interference by in-laws can bring tension to a marriage. Strategies for addressing interference from outsiders, however, remain the same’. These strategies are suggested by previous researchers (Becker 1973, Cherlin 2009).

Further light will be shed on the various effects of in-law interference on marriage through the present research which is based on experienced couples selected from two major towns in two local government in Ondo State.

3.0 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.1. Research Design and Methodology

This provides the methodological details of how this study will be carried out by presenting the research design and the methodology utilized in the process of gathering and analyzing data for this data under the following headings:

  1. Subjects of the study;
  2. Method of data collection; and

iii. Procedure of data analysis.

3.1.1. Subjects of the Study

The subjects for this study are selected couples from Owo and Akure South Local Government of Ondo State.

3.1.2. Method of Data Collection

The data for the study were gathered by designing a 13-item questionnaire, as our research instrument, and administered to selected couples from Owo and Akure South Local Government of Ondo State. The questionnaires were administered to generate information from fifty couples, totaling 100 people, as Chapelle (2001) cited in Zou (2008) regards questionnaire as one of the major research methods which can present evidence about opinions. The selection of the couples was done based on random sampling technique in the two major towns which are the headquarters of the two local government areas. Only experienced couples with minimum of five years in marriage were selected to fill the questionnaire. There were hundred percent return of questionnaires. The couples filled a questionnaire (see Appendix A) that is made up of thirteen questions, which serve as primary source of information for our research. Thereby, we have One hundred questionnaires for the analysis.

3.1.3. Procedure of Data Analysis

The data gathered for this research work are analysed by calculating the frequencies and percentages of response of subjects to each question. Tables are drawn to present the frequency and percentage of each response. Frequency, as used for analysis in the study, imply the number of occurrence of an item and the percentage is determined by dividing the frequency of each response in the table by the total number of the response and the result is multiplied by 100. This method is perceived appropriate because it enhances well-defined analysis and logical interpretation of analysis. Thus:

Total number of an item x 100

Total number of items in its category 1

Data interpretations and discussion are based on the analysis which led to the conclusions and necessary recommendations.

4.0 DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS

4.1. Data Presentation and Analysis

The total number of questionnaire administered is one hundred (100), which requires the respondents to tick Yes or No. The data analysis deals with result obtained from questions raised.

Research Question 1: Could there be marriage without in-law interference?

Table 1:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50 20203030
Wives50 28282222
Total100 48485252

From Table 1, we observed that, a larger percentage (52%) of the respondents believed that in- law interference is a common phenomenon associated with marriage. This implies that most marriages suffer from in-law interference. No wonder, more women wish or desire that marriage is possible without in-law interference.

Research Question 2: Is in-law interference one of the major problems of marriage?

Table 2:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50414199
Wives50505000
Total100919199

There is no doubt, from the data on Table 2 that in-law interference is perceived as a major problem affecting marriage as agreed by 91% of our respondents. In fact, there is no wife that did not view in-law interference as a major problem in marriage. We only have 9% that disagreed with the fact that in-law interference is a major problem.

Research Question 3: Is there any benefit from in-law interference?

Table 3:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50414199
Wives5035351515
Total10076762424

From Table 3, 76% of the respondents are of the opinion that some benefits could be derived from in-law interference. There are certain instances that in-law serve as check and balance to couples, especially when either of them is misbehaving. In-law interference could also be beneficial in terms of financial or material support especially when in-law have the ability to salvage situations that may badly affect the couple.

Research Question 4: Are couples responsible for in-law interference?

Table 4:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands5035351515
Wives5020203030
Total10055554545

55% of the respondents agreed that couple could cause in-law interference while 45% of the disagreed. At times, in-laws interfere in marriage based on information from either of the couple, as such, the couple could be responsible for such. But instances abound whereby in-laws interfere in marriage without the support of couples.

Research Question 5: Do you feel comfortable when your in-law interferes in your marriage?

Table 5:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50494911
Wives50505000
Total100999911

There is hardly anybody that feels comfortable with undue interference. Almost all the respondents posited that they cannot feel comfortable with in-law interference. For 99% to throw their weight towards this end, despite the fact that some of them had earlier agreed that some benefits could be derived from in-law interference. Probably, most of them would have wished such benefits come from other people aside in-laws.

Research Question 6: Do you support in-laws residing with couple?

Table 6:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands5022223838
Wives5018183232
Total10040406060

From our analysis in Table 6, 60% of our respondents were against in-laws co-habiting with couples. The reason for this is not far-fetched, interference crops us easily when in-laws live with couples. 40% that supported the idea of in-laws living with couples were mostly men. In Yoruba culture, it is believed that the husband’s mother should have more access to the home than the wife’s mother.

Research Question 7: Do you think in-law interference can lead to divorce?

Table7:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands5022222828
Wives5041410909
Total10063633737

63% believed that in-law interference could lead to divorce. There is no way, crises that emanate from undue in-laws interference will not lead to divorce if not properly managed. Hence in-law interference is regarded as one of the major causes of divorce.

Research Question 8: Can you attribute incessant quarrels among couples to in-law interference?

Table 8:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50454555
Wives50444466
Total10089891111

It is obvious from Table 8 that in-law interference is one of the causes of incessant quarrels among couples. As only 11% of the respondents did not believe that in-law interference could lead to incessant quarrels or disagreements

Research Question 9: Can couples discuss their problems with in-law?

Table 9:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands5028282222
Wives5020203030
Total10048555252

From Table 9, 48% believed that couples could discuss their problems or challenges with in-laws while 52% did not support such. In essence, this implies that about half of the respondents assume that discussing their problems with in-laws could lead to undue interference.

Research Question 10: Can couples relate well with in-law without allowing interference?

Table 10:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50444466
Wives50474733
Total100919199

91% of the respondents agreed that couples could relate well and appropriately with in-laws, and at the same time, disallowing undue interference. This implies that relationship with in-laws should be held in high esteem. Despite that, couples should manage their relationships with in-laws in such a way as to disallow undue interference

Research Question 11: Does your religion encourage in-law interference?

Table 11:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50554545
Wives50774343
Total10012128888

From Table 11, it is obvious that religion is assisting in curbing in-law interference among couples. 88% of the respondents agreed that their religion does not support in-law interference. This is healthy for a good marital relationship among couples.

Research Question 12: Does your culture encourage in-law interference?

Table 12:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50454555
Wives50484822
Total100939377

Table 12 shows that 93% of the respondents are of the opinion that culture, to a large extent encourages in-law interference. This implies that the culture determine in-laws’ attitudes and feelings toward the affairs of couples.

Research Question 13: Do education and exposure determine the level of in-law interference?

Table 13:

PartNo of respondentsFrequency

Yes

Percentage

%

Frequency

No

Percentage

%

Husbands50454555
Wives50464644
Total100919199

Table 13 demonstrated from the opinion of our respondents that the level of education and rate of exposure of in-laws go a long way to determine undue interference in the affairs of couples as 91% agreed that education and exposure are factors that influence attitudes in respect of interference.

5.0 CONCLUSION

We have observed that in-law interference has both positive and negative effects on marriage, according to our data analyzed above. Despite these, in-law interference has been confirmed by experienced couples as a major issue that could cause incessant quarrels, unhealthy relationship between a couple and the extended family, and divorce. Hence, we recommend that couples should ensure they maintain healthy relationship with their in-laws without allowing undue interference. This could be achieved by being able to differentiate between what should be discussed and what should not be discussed with the in-laws. This is a far cry from distancing themselves totally from in-laws. Since, the culture encourages close association between couples and in-laws.

Religion affiliation could also assist couples to manage or overcome undue interference from in-laws through teachings and practices that are already entrenched in the doctrines of the religion.

Every attempt by in-law to interfere in the affairs of couples should not be met with outright opposition from couples, instead in-laws should be made to realise reasons they do not need to bother about certain areas of their affairs with wisdom so they will still be able to maintain healthy relationship with them.

So far, we have been able to shed light on the effects of in-law interference on marriage. I acknowledge that the points discussed in this research paper are by no means exhaustive but they could go a long way in assisting couples, in-laws, marrital counselors to take decisions that would sustain marriages. We therefore recommend a research study into reasons for in-laws interference in marriages.

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Becker, G. S. (1973) ‘A Theory of Marriage: Part I’. Journal of Political Economy, 81, 813–846.

Beirne K. ( 2013 ) ‘Family Interfering In-Laws’ http://www.foryourmarriage.org/interfering-in- laws/. Accessed on 16/11/13

Burgess, E. W., & Locke, H. J. (1945) The Family: From Institution to Companionship. New

York: American Book.

Cherlin, A. J. (2003). ‘Should the Government Promote Marriage?’ Contexts, 2, 22–29.

Cherlin, A. J. (2004).The deinstitutionalization of American marriage’. Journal of Marriage

and Family, 66, 848–861.

Cherlin, A. J. (2009). ‘The Marriage-Go-Round: The State of Marriage and the Family’.

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Depression’. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. , 46, 341–358.

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Mitchell, C. (2010) Are Divorce Studies Trustworthy? The Effects of Survey Nonresponse Errors. Journal of Marriage and Family , 72, 893905.

Musick . K and L. Bumpass (2012) ‘Reexamining the Case for Marriage: Union Formation and Changes in Well-being’. Journal of Marriage and Family. Vol 74( 1). 110-119.

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APPENDIX A

Questionnaire

THE EFFECTS OF IN-LAW INTERFERENCE ON MARRIAGE

(A CASE STUDY OF SELECTED COUPLES IN OWO LOCAL GOVERNMENT, ONDO STATE)

The main aims of the questionnaire relate to the following two points:

  1. i) identifying effects in law interference on marriage.
  2. ii) recommending the level of involvement of in law in marriage.

Kindly complete the attached questionnaire as soon as possible and return it.

The Researchers.

Please answer all questions. Beside each item below, tick the appropriate response

Questions:

Sex: Male……..……… Female……………….

Yes No

1) Could there be marriage without in-law interference?

2) Is in-law interference one of the major problems of marriage?

3) Is there any benefit from in-law interference?

4) Are couples responsible for in-law interference?

5) Do you feel comfortable when your in-law interferes in your marriage?

6) Do you support in-law residing with the couple?

7) Do you think in-law interference can lead to divorce?

8) Can you attribute in incessant quarrel among couples to in-law interference?

9) Can couples discuss their problems with in-law?

10) Can couples relate well with in-law without allowing interference?

11) Does your religion encourage in-law interference?

12) Does your culture encourage in-law interference?

13) Do education and exposure determine the level of in-law interference?

[1] Axinn, W. G., and Thornton, A. (1992). ‘The Relationship Between Cohabitation and Divorce:

Selectivity or Causal Influence?’ Demography, 29, 357–374

[2] Becker, G. S. (1973) ‘A Theory of Marriage: Part I’. Journal of Political Economy, 81, 813–846.

[3] Beirne K. ( 2013 ) ‘Family Interfering In-Laws’ http://www.foryourmarriage.org/interfering-in- laws/

[4] Burgess, E. W., & Locke, H. J. (1945) The Family: From Institution to Companionship. New York: American Book.

[5] Cherlin, A. J. (2003). ‘Should the Government Promote Marriage?’ Contexts, 2, 22–29.

[6] Cherlin, A. J. (2004).The deinstitutionalization of American marriage’. Journal of Marriage

and Family, 66, 848–861

[7] Mitchell, C. (2010) Are Divorce Studies Trustworthy? The Effects of Survey Nonresponse Errors. Journal of Marriage and Family , 72, 893905.

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