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The Facts of Infidelity
Part 6: Social Roles and Infidelity

Relationships are complicated, and the various roles we play in our relationships can have effects on faithfulness and the lack thereof.

The role of gender in cheating

Women do not like being the dominant partner.

For women, the imbalance of power between her and her husband is often associated with infidelity. Studies have found that wives who say that they “get their way” more often during disagreements were more likely to cheat.

The role of income in cheating

A Cornell University study on income and infidelity found that the more a wife depends on her husband’s income, the less likely she is to cheat. Because they get out of the house alone less, they may have fewer opportunities to cheat, and they may have decided that an affair isn’t worth them risking their livelihood.

Ironically, the same Cornell University study found that husbands who bring home most of the household income are more likely to cheat. The men who were least likely to cheat live in a home where their wives brought in about 75% of the income.

The role of education in cheating

A National Marriage Project study in the 2000s found that highly educated people are less likely to be unfaithful than those less educated.

  • College educated: 13% said they’ve had sex outside of their marriage.
  • Moderately educated: 19% have cheated.
  • High school dropouts: 21% admit to have extramarital affairs of a sexual nature.

In a large U.S. national study of dating, cohabiting, and married women, Forste and Tanfer (1996) found that if a woman is more educated than her husband, she is more likely to engage in sexual infidelity; but if the husband is more educated than his wife, she was less likely to cheat. This indicates that more than absolute levels of education, the degree to which a woman is more or less educated than her husband plays a role in infidelity.

The role of intelligence in cheating

Intelligence in males correlates to lower incidence of infidelity.

Data from a large, representative American sample shows that more intelligent boys are more likely than their less intelligent peers to grow up to value sexual exclusivity in early adulthood than less. In contrast, childhood IQ has no effect on girls’ value on sexual exclusivity in early adulthood. In fact, the effect of intelligence on the value of sexual exclusivity is more than four times as strong among males than it is among females. Among women, the association is statistically insignificant.

Some consider sexual exclusivity to be an “evolutionary novel” quality that would have been of little benefit to early man, who was programmed to be promiscuous. In today’s modern society, we no longer confer such an evolutionary advantage to men who have multiple sexual partners – but it is only intelligent men who are able to shed the psychological baggage of their species and adopt new modes of behavior.

We’ve covered a lot from different areas related to infidelity so far in this series. In our next article, part 7 of this series, we’re share more interesting statistics on the unfaithful.

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