Books & Articles – Adult Child

  1. Nonfiction
  2. Memoir
  3. Fiction
  4. Articles


Note: This reading list is designed to illustrate the breadth and depth of family dynamics between adults and their parents, without endorsing any particular books or article. As expected, several books on the subject of adult children have been written by people who have personally experienced challenging conflicts with parents, adult children, and/or in-laws, yet they are presented as self-help books rather than as memoir, and the advice given is often limited to their own situation. We chose books based on reviews by experts and scholars in the field, that offer a unique perspective, and/or that receive a significant percentage of favorable reviews by readers. However, everyone’s personal situation is unique, and no single book is likely to fully address one’s relationships, if at all. Rather, it’s useful to glean good information from different books, read other people’s reviews, and use it as a springboard for discussion with friends, family, therapists, or groups. Please feel free to suggest other works in the comment section below.

Allen, David M. Coping with Critical, Demanding, and Dysfunctional Parents: Powerful Strategies to Help Adult Children Maintain Boundaries and Stay Sane. 2018. New Harbinger Publications.

Apter, Terri. What Do You Want from Me?: Learning to Get Along with In-Laws. 2010. W. W. Norton & Company.

Brann, Deanna. Reluctantly Related: Secrets To Getting Along With Your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law. 2016. Ambergris Publishing.

Chethik, Neil. Fatherloss: How Sons of All Ages Come to Terms with the Deaths of Their Dads. 2001. Hachette Books (Reprint edition).

Coleman, Joshua. Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict. 2021. Harmony.

Cori, Jasmin Lee. The Emotionally Absent Mother: How to Recognize and Heal the Invisible Effects of Childhood Emotional Neglect. 2017. The Experiment (2nd edition).

Derrida, Jacques, translated by George Collins. The Politics of Friendship (Radical Thinkers). 2006. Verso. [Philosophy.]

Edelman, Hope. Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss. 1995. Delta. [Especially for women whose mothers died when they were young.]

——-. Motherless Mothers: How Losing a Mother Shapes the Parent You Become. 2007. Harper Perennial.

Forward, Susan and Donna Frazier. Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You. 1998. Harper Paperbacks (Reprint edition).

Forward, Susan. Toxic In-Laws: Loving Strategies for Protecting Your Marriage. 2001. Harper.

Giancarlo, Christine. Parentectomy: A narrative ethnography of 30 cases of parental alienation and what to do about it. 2018. Tellwell Talent.

Graham, Elisabeth. Mothers-in-Law vs. Daughters-in-Law: Let There Be Peace. 2010. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. USA. [Note: provides a Christian-based perspective.]

Greif, Geoffrey L. and Michael E. Woolley. In-law Relationships: Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, and Sons. 2020. Oxford University Press.

Kast, Verena. Father-Daughter, Mother-Son: Freeing Ourselves from the Complexes That Bind Us. Chiron Publications. [First published by Element Books in 1997, it has become a classic read in Jung ́s concept of complexes and how they shape our relationships.]

Lieberman, Susan Abel. The Mother-in-Law’s Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships with Married Children. 2009. Bright Sky Press.

Mandeville, Rebecca C. Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed: Help and Hope for Adults in the Family Scapegoat Role. 2020. Independently published.

McGregor, Sheri. Done With The Crying: Help and Healing for Mothers of Estranged Adult Children. 2016. Sowing Creek Press.

Miller, Alice. Prisoners Of Childhood. 1981. Basic Books. [Scholarly book]

Nemzoff, Ruth. Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family. 2012. St. Martin’s Griffin.

Nielsen, Linda. Father-Daughter Relationships: Contemporary Research and Issues (2nd Edition). 2020. Routledge.

Pillemer, Karl. Fault Lines: Fractured Families and How to Mend Them. 2020. Avery.

Sarkisian, Natalia and Naomi Gerstel. Nuclear Family Values, Extended Family Lives: The Power of Race, Class, and Gender. 2012. Routledge.


Black, Dustin Lance. Mamas Boy: A Memoir. 2019. John Murray. [The author’s ‘coming out’ to his conservative Mormon mother at twenty-one began a long journey back to each other. Made into a film for HBO in 2022.]

Calhoun, Ada. Also a Poet: Frank O’Hara, My Father, and Me. 2022. Grove Press. USA.

Cherington, Gretchen. Poetic License: A Memoir. 2020. She Writes Press. USA. [Acclaimed memoir telling of a woman’s innate power to overcome the betrayal of being molested by her celebrated father.]

Dern, Laura and Diane Ladd. Honey, Baby, Mine: A Mother and Daughter Talk Life, Death, Love (and Banana Pudding). 2023. Grand Central Publishing. USA, [“Deeply personal conversations from actress and activist Laura Dern and the woman she admires most, her mother…actress Diane Ladd.”]

Dickman, Matthew. Husbandry: Poems. 2022. W. W. Norton & Company. USA. [The poet reflects on his role as father to two sons, as well as his relationship with his own father.]

Frank, Tanya. Zig-Zag Boy: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood. 2023. W. W. Norton & Company. USA.

Grace, Pippa. Mother in the Mother: Looking back, looking forward – women’s reflections on maternal lineage. 2019. Womancraft Publishing. Listen to an interview with the author. [Grace interviews 50 women regarding intergenerational relationships among mothers, grandmothers, and children.]

Ivester, Jo. Never a Girl, Always a Boy: A Family Memoir of a Transgender Journey. 2020. She Writes Press. [Jo writes of her son, Jeremy’s journey from childhood through coming out as transgender, and includes his perspectives of her husband, Jeremy’s siblings, and Jeremy himself.]

Jackson, Cassandra. The Wreck: A Daughter’s Memoir of Becoming a Mother. 2023. Viking. USA. [Exploring how the notion of ‘replacement child’ influences one’s life, and how familial tragedy haunts and shapes the future, against a background of institutional racism.]

Kafka, Franz, translated by Ernst Kaiser and Eithne Wilkins. Letter to His Father / Brief An Den Vater (English and German Edition). 1987. Schocken. Germany.

Law, Phyllida. Notes to my Mother-in-Law. 2009. HarperCollins Publishers. UK.

Loewinsohn, Briana. Ephemera: A Memoir. 2023. Fantagraphics. USA. [“A dreamlike take on a graphic memoir set in a garden, a forest, and a greenhouse…Ephemera is a story about a daughter trying to relate to a parent who struggles with mental illness.” Read NPR’s review.]

McNamara, Craig. Because Our Fathers Lied: A Memoir of Truth and Family, from Vietnam to Today. 2023. Back Bay Books.

Nietfeld, Emi. Acceptance: A Memoir. 2022. Penguin Press. USA. [Overcoming an abuse childhood, where authorities tend to acquiesce to a parents’ point of view to the peril of the child.]

Sax, Boria. Stealing Fire: Memoir of a Boyhood in the Shadow of Atomic Espionage. 2014. USA. [Discovering that your dad is spying for the Russians. An engrossing memoir that demonstrates the complicated relationships among conflicting moralities, cultural histories and alienation, being a father, and being a son. Read a synopsis here.]

Snyder, Rachel Louise. Women We Buried, Women We Burned: A Memoir. 2023. Bloomsbury Publishing. USA. [After her mother died when the author was 8, her father “thrust the family into an evangelical, cult-like existence.” Rebellious, she was cast out of her home and school at 16 and embarked upon a journalism career memorializing victims of violence. See also her article about her relationship with her stepmother.]

Stafford, Kim. Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. 2003. Graywolf Press.

Tune, Romal and Jordan Tune. I Wish My Dad: The Power of Vulnerable Conversations between Fathers and Sons. 2022. [Social entrepreneur Romal and his adult son Jordan share their conversations about fathers and sons, along with those of 17 other men.]

Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. 2018. Random House. USA. [Overcoming a neglectful childhood and sibling abuse.]


Aleichem, Sholem, translated by Aliza Shevrin, introduction by Dan Miron. Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son. 2009. Penguin Classics. Russia/USA. [The story of Tevya and His Daughters, which served as the basis for the beloved international play and film, Fiddler on the Roof.]

Hepworth, Sally. The Mother-in-Law: A Novel. 2019. St. Martin’s Press. USA.

Hjorth, Vigdis. Is Mother Dead. 2022. Verso Fiction. Norway. [A daughter seeks to reconcile with her estranged mother.]

Hye-jin, Kim, translation by Jamie Chang. Concerning My Daughter: A Novel. 2022. Restless Books (Reprint, translation edition). South Korea.

Lawrence, Josephine. Years are So Long. 1934. [A Critical Edition of Josephine Lawrence’s Years are So Long (1934): A Novelistic Portrayal of Adult Children with Their Elderly Parents During the American Great Depression. 2011. Edwin Mellen Press Ltd; Critical ed. edition. The book served as the inspiration for the 1937 film, Make Way for Tomorrow.]

Lichtendorf, Judith. Death of a Daughter-in-Law in Post Road Magazine. Fall/Winter (2021) 38 : 101. USA. [Short story]

Miller, Arthur. All My Sons: A Play. 2000. Penguin Classics (New Ed edition). USA. [The play premiered in 1946.]

Morrison, Toni. Beloved: A Novel. 1987. Alfred A. Knopf Inc. USA. [Some may be surprised to find this book listed here, but it reveals the impact of guilt on a parent’s life, the manipulations of adult children, the impact on the family, and the importance of community.]

O’Neill, Eugene. Long Day’s Journey Into Night. 1956. Yale University Press. (Critical edition edited by William Davies King. 2014. Yale University Press).

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. [Premiered in 1597. Based on an Italian tale translated into verse as The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke in 1562 and retold in prose in Palace of Pleasure by William Painter in 1567.]

Turgenev, Ivan, translated by Nicolas Pasternak Slater and Maya Slater. Fathers and Children (Russian: Отцы и дети). 2022. New York Review Books Classics. (orig. 1862, Moscow: Grachev & Co.) Russia.

Vuong, Ocean. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel. 2021. Penguin Books. [“A letter from a son to a mother who cannot read…and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known…a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity.”]


Popular Media

Apter, Terri. In-Law Conflict and Troubled Marriages in Psychology Today. Posted August 11, 2009

Bernstein, Elizabeth. The Power of the Son-in-Law in The Wall Street Journal. Updated Nov. 27, 2012.

Bulger, Adam. 7 Signs of Toxic Grandparents — And How to Talk to Them About Their Behavior in Fatherly. Updated: Dec. 22, 2022, Originally Published: November 9, 2021.

Cherington, Gretchen Eberhart. My Famous Father Was A Hometown Hero. Then I Told My Truth About Him. in HuffPost Personal. March 14, 2023.

Engelhart, Katie. The Mother Who Changed: A Story of Dementia in New York Times Magazine. Posted May 9, 2023.

Hall, Elizabeth Dorrance. Improving Relationships With Your In-Laws in Psychology Today. Posted September 25, 2018.

Hill, Amelia. In-law tensions hit women hardest in The Guardian. Sat 29 Nov 2008.

How to Maintain a Good Relationship with Your In Laws in Family Life, In-Laws, Updated June 10, 2022.

Myers, David. I Have Just Months To Live. Instead Of Making A Bucket List, Here’s What I’m Doing Before I Go. in HuffPost. December 23, 2022.

Neyfakh, Leon. The weird science of in-laws: What experts know about the family relationship with no rules in The Boston Globe. November 17, 2013.

Renkl, Margaret. How to Stop Hating Your In-Laws in Parents in Parents. Updated on August 1, 2022.

Snyder, Rachel Louise. A New Mother, an Old Mother, a Love Story in The New York Times. May 14, 2023. [A moving account of the author’s reconciliation with her stepmother. See also her memoir.]

Stepp, Gina. In-Laws and Outliers in Vision: Family and Relationships. Fall 2012. [Vision “examines topics through the wisdom of an ancient source—the Bible—while avoiding preconceived notions about what that source says,” yet this article on in-laws and the role of fathers can be considered secular.]

Wyman, Christina. Being Estranged From My Mom Is Hard. Mother’s Day Makes It Harder in Marie Claire. Published 27 April 2021.

Jenny Zhang, Jenny Zhang. Photographer Documenting the Homeless Discovers Her Own Father Among Them in My Modern Met. August 10, 2015. [When witnessing the plight of people living on the streets, one wonders if they have family, and if so, how have they become disconnected. Here’s a story of photographer Diana Kim’s reunion with her father, and how love and persistence can be the best medicine for alienation and mental illness.]

Peer Reviewed

Fowler, C., Rittenour, C. “A life-span approach to children-in-law’s perceptions of parent-in-law communication.” Journal of Family Communication 17 (3), 254-272.

Gilligan M, Suitor, JJ, Pillemer K. Estrangement Between Mothers and Adult Children: The Role of Norms and Values. J Marriage Fam 77, no. 4 (2015) : 908-920. doi: 10.1111/jomf.12207. PMID: 26207072; PMCID: PMC4507819.

Heydari, A., Teymoori, A., & Trappes, R. Honor killing as a dark side of modernity: Prevalence, common discourses, and a critical view. Social Science Information 60, no. 1 (2021) : 86–106.

In-Law Relationships. International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 27 Oct. 2022.

Mikucki-Enyart, SL, Caughlin, JP, Rittenour, CE. “Content and relational implications of children-in-Law’s relational uncertainty within the in-Law dyad during the transition to extended Family.” Communication Quarterly 63 (3), 286-309.

Raj, A., Sabarwal, S., Decker, M.R. et al. Abuse from In-Laws during Pregnancy and Post-Partum: Qualitative and Quantitative Findings from Low-income Mothers of Infants in Mumbai, IndiaMatern Child Health J 15, (2011) : 700–712.

Willson, Andrea E., Kim M. Shuey, and Glen H. Elder Jr. Ambivalence in the Relationship of Adult Children to Aging Parents and In-Laws. Journal of Marriage and Family 65, no. 4 (2004) : 1055-1072.