Adultery is predicted by having a neurotic partner with low self-esteem and being suspicious that they are having an affair, research finds.
People who are neurotic tend to have less control over their impulses, so are more likely to act on an opportunity.
Those with low self-esteem may seek validation by having an affair.
Being suspicious of a partner is also predictive of adultery because people are surprisingly good at intuitively reading the signs of infidelity.
In one study, a stranger was able to spot a relationship cheat just by watching a couple interacting for a few minutes.
The conclusions come from a nationally representative survey of 2,291 people who had been married for at least 12 months.
The results showed that there was a 2.3% chance of adultery in each year.
Other studies have suggested that infidelity may affect up to 75% of relationships.
Neuroticism was an important predictor of adultery, the study’s authors write:
“…neuroticism was significantly and positively associated with infidelity, which is similar to what has been reported regarding an association between neuroticism and perceived likelihood of engaging in an affair.”
Neurotic people may be more likely to act on opportunities, the authors write:
“…it may be that impulsivity is the aspect of neuroticism that gives rise to increased likelihood of infidelity, as it has been hypothesized that people with high impulsivity and low dependability may be more likely to act on sexual opportunities.”
On top of neuroticism, low self-esteem and being suspicious, adultery was also predicted by marital dissatisfaction and being less religious.
Men were also more likely to cheat when their partner was pregnant.
Being religious was linked to lower levels of infidelity, the researchers also found.
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 of Family Psychology (Whisman et al., 2007).