Predictors of Infidelity in Monogamous Heterosexual Couples

This study aimed to assess the various factors that are associated with infidelity in monogamous, heterosexual couples. Results showed that 23.2 percent of men and 19.2 percent of women admitted cheating while in their relationship. The results revealed that male participants in the study were sexually excited or inhibited more because of concerns regarding their sexual performance, while fewer participants were affected by fear of consequences of their act. For women, it was found that those who experienced “low compatibility in terms of sexual attitudes and values were 2.9 times more likely to have engaged in sexual infidelity.”

Evidence from a number of studies suggests that sexual infidelity in a monogamous and heterosexual relationship is one of the major causes of divorce and separation. Studies have also shown that at least a quarter to half of all the divorce cases cite infidelity as a cause. Further, one quarter of the female participants and one third of the male participants in the general population admitted to have been sexually unfaithful to their spouses at least once in their lifetime. But the studies that exist on sexual infidelity fail to generalize the level of infidelity across populations. Some of these factors include demographic ones such as age, education, socioeconomic status etc. and other factors include interpersonal or intrapersonal factors. This study attempted to find the factors that determine sexual infidelity in committed monogamous relationships.

* For this study, 506 male participants at an average age of around 32 years and 412 female participants at an average age of around 27 years were selected. All these participants were in a steady, monogamous heterosexual relationship.
* The participants answered questionnaires that involved rating on scores such as sexual excitation/inhibition scales and also answered the Mood and Sexuality Questionnaire (MSQ).
* Their religion, age, income, education, sexual compatibility and sexual and relationship satisfaction were also recorded.

Key findings
* The results showed that 23.2 percent of men and 19.2 percent of women in this study admitted to have been unfaithful to their partners. This involved being “engaged in sexual interactions with someone other than their partner that could jeopardize or hurt their relationship.”
* On analysis, it was seen that male participants showed more sexual excitation or inhibition due to concerns regarding their sexual performance rather than because of the consequences of their actions of infidelity.
* It was found that in men, unfaithfulness to the partner could be influenced by sexual excitation and a depressed state or negative mood.
* Women showed similar patterns of being more sexually excited or inhibited because of performance concerns than by consequence concerns. A low or negative mood also led to infidelity in women. However, for women, a low sexual attitude, together with incompatibility of values with the partner, predicted infidelity more effectively.

Next steps/Shortcomings
Authors confirm that their study sample was mainly middle and upper class, educated and largely nonreligious orthodox and self-reported heterosexual committed couples. Further studies that looked at a more generalized population are warranted to explore the issue of the effects of mood on one’s tendency to engage in sexual behavior. Also, the questionnaires did not ask about the nature of infidelity. This could mean casual sex to some, sexual affairs in others. The results could also have been affected by past incidents of infidelity of the other partner and its knowledge in the tested individuals.

This study is the first of its kind that strives to distinguish demographic as well as interpersonal and intrapersonal factors that may lead to sexual infidelity in monogamous heterosexual couples. Results showed that 23.2 percent of men and 19.2 percent of women admitted to cheating while in their relationship. Overall, it was observed that while sexual excitation is a major predictor of unfaithfulness in men, depressed or negative moods could affect both sexes and predict infidelity. It was also observed that in women, relationship factors could predict infidelity better than other factors such as religiosity and marital status. Future studies with a more generalized concept and larger populations are necessary to consolidate the findings of this study.

For More Information:
Infidelity in Heterosexual Couples: Demographic, Interpersonal, and Personality-Related Predictors of Extradyadic Sex
Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 2011
By Kristen Mark; Erick Janssen; Indiana University, Bloomington, IN

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