Infidelity Study: Is It Cheating? Jealousy Following Cyber-Infidelity

Previous studies have investigated the differences in the intensity of sexual jealousy among men and women. The findings revealed that men are comparatively more unfaithful and jealous than women. Currently, unfaithful behavior over the Internet is becoming a problem for couples. This study was conducted to investigate the gender differences in response to Internet infidelity. The results revealed that both Internet infidelity and general infidelity evoke similar feelings and the gender differences in terms of their responses are in accordance with those of previous studies.

Social psychologists have studied jealousy triggered by transgressions and infidelity among one’s romantic partner. Psychologists have clearly defined jealousy as being caused due to emotional involvement or sexual involvement of the mate with another. It has been noted that men are more concerned about their mate’s sexual infidelity than emotional involvement. But women feel more jealous when they find their male partners are emotionally involved with another woman. Over the last two decades, the Internet has advanced with widespread coverage. Studies have shown that many married people as well as those in a relationship are flirting over the Internet. Internet infidelity is responsible for separation and divorce in many cases today. However, no study has completely focused on the gender differences in jealousy over Internet infidelity. This study analyzes how differently men and women react in case of Internet infidelity.


  • In the case of Study 1, 254 college students consisting of 201 females and 53 males were included. For Study 2, 483 adults were selected the mean age of the participants was around 48 years.
  • Each participant of the two study groups was presented with situations. They were asked to rate them in terms of what would upset them the most.
  • These situations included questions on how upset they would be if their partners had sexual intercourse or became deeply emotionally attached to someone of the opposite sex. This was termed as a dilemma related to “offline infidelity”.
  • Other questions pertained to how upset they would be if their partners were performing sexual acts with the help of webcams with someone of the opposite sex or were just emotionally attached to someone over the Internet.


  • In Study 1, the responses revealed the following: offline sexual involvement upset 60.4% men, compared to offline emotional attachment (seen in 28.9% men). When asked about Internet infidelity, online sexual interactions upset 81.1% men, compared to online emotional attachment (seen in 58.7% men). Further, 66% men were upset if their partner was trying sexual actions before the webcam with someone, whereas only 40.3% men would be upset if their partner fell in love with someone over the Internet.
  • In study 2, the responses revealed the following: offline sexual involvement would upset 80.2% men compared to offline emotional attachment (seen in 73% men). Offline infidelity involving different sexual positions upset 66.5% men, whereas only 55.6 % men were upset if their partners really fell in love with someone else.
  • In study 2, Internet infidelity of the sexual kind upset men and women in a similar manner. However, 70.7% men were upset if their partners tried different sexual actions over webcam, whereas only 61.4% men were upset if their partners fell in love with someone over the Internet.

The authors did not use a rating scale to assess how upset the participants were in each situation. Instead, they used two different situations and asked the participants to choose which was more upsetting. Nevertheless, the authors suggest that rating would have provided deeper understanding of the jealousy, and recommend that future studies use a rating scale.

This study involved both college students and adults from the general population. They were presented with different situations of sexual or emotional unfaithfulness of their partners. The results showed that men felt more jealous if there were sexual transgressions in their relationship compared to mere emotional attachment. The response of men was the same for both offline and online Internet infidelity. The authors speculate that this is an important area of research, because Internet infidelity has been explored to a lesser extent. They recommend that further studies should be conducted to establish the link between jealousy and its intensity in these situations.

For More Information:
Sex Differences in Jealousy: The Case of Internet Infidelity
Publication Journal: Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 2009

By Hinke A. K. Groothof; Pieternel Dijkstra
From the Open University of the Netherlands, Heerlen, Netherlands and University of Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.


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