People whose parents cheated on their partner are more likely to cheat on their partner as well, research finds.
Infidelity runs in the family.
When offspring knew their parents had cheated, they were more likely to cheat themselves.
It is partly down to subtle messages about relationships passed down from one generation to the next.
Parental infidelity indirectly tells offspring that this behaviour is acceptable.
The study’s authors write that infidelity is reasonably common:
“…infidelity is the single most common reason for relationship
dissolution in both dating relationships and marriages.
Moreover, approximately 22%–25% of married men and 11%–15% of married women report having engaged in sexual
infidelity, and 75% of male college students and 68% of female college students report having engaged in some form of infidelity in their dating relationships.”
For the research, 1,254 people took part in three separate studies.
They were asked about their attitudes towards infidelity, including the extent to which they agreed with statements like:
- “Relationship partners should always be faithful.”
- “In order to have a successful relationship, individuals should only be involved with their relationship partner.”
They were also asked about the messages they received from their parents about relationships.
For example, did they agree with statements like:
- “My parents told me that infidelity is sometimes justified.”
- “My parents discussed with me the importance of being
faithful in romantic relationships.”
The authors explain the results:
“…parental infidelity is associated with offspring’s
own likelihood of having engaged in infidelity.
Offspring who had knowledge of a parental infidelity were significantly more likely to have engaged in infidelity…”
Naturally, this does not mean that cheating partners can blame their parent’s for their own behaviour — everyone makes their own decisions.
However, people often take after their parents.
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 Personal Relationships (Weiser & Weigel, 2017).