Men who are risk-takers, easily excited sexually, or those that have performance anxiety are most likely to cheat, research finds.
For women, the pattern is different.
Women are motivated more by their levels of happiness and satisfaction with the relationship.
In other words: women who are unhappy are more likely to cheat.
Professor Robin Milhausen, who led the study, explained that most studies on infidelity have looked at demographic factors:
“Few studies on infidelity have gone beyond exploring demographics.
This research shows that demographic variables may not influence decision-making as much as previously thought — that personality matters more, especially for men.”
The research involved almost one thousand men and women in monogamous relationships.
The results showed that 23% of men and 19% of women admitted being unfaithful at some point.
Men’s infidelity was predicted by personality factors like risk-taking.
Professor Milhausen said:
“People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused, or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an ‘out’ if the encounter doesn’t go well — they don’t have to see them again.”
For women it was more about their satisfaction with the relationship.
Dissatisfaction made them twice as likely to cheat.
Professor Milhausen said:
“All kinds of things predict infidelity.
What this study says is that when you put all of those things together, for men, personality characteristics are so strong they bounce everything else out of the model.
For women, in the face of all other variables, it’s still the relationship that is the most important predictor.”
Professor Milhausen continued:
“Taken at face value, this research might seem to just support sexual stereotypes: Women are just concerned about the relationship, and, for men, once a cheater, always a cheater, regardless of their relationship.
But the caveat is that there are a lot of variants and factors that are not explained here that might impact whether someone cheats.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior (Mark, et al., 2011).