Men more likely to cheat, usually with friends, CU Boulder study shows

DENVER – Men are more likely to cheat than women and it usually happens with someone they know well, according to a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder.

The researchers found that 21 percent of men and just 13 percent of women have cheated at some point in their lifetime – numbers that have been consistent from 2000 to 2016, according to the study.

One interesting aspect in the study? The CU-based researchers also found that attitudes toward extramarital sex “have grown slightly more relaxed since 2000.”

About 53.5 percent of those who have cheated said they were unfaithful with someone they knew well, such as a close friend. About a third cheated with someone who was somewhat well-known, such as a neighbor, co-worker or long-term acquaintance. Less than a quarter of responders – about 21 percent – said they cheated with a hookup.

Lindsay Labrecque, the lead author in the study and a PhD student in the department of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder and co-author Mark Whisman, a psychology professor at CU, said infidelity is consistently reported more frequently by men, “despite reports from the media and some clinicians that men and women engage in infidelity at similar rates,” according to a press release from the university.

The study also found that among those who reported to have cheated within the past year, men were much more likely to have paid for sex than women, a 12 to 1 percent difference, respectively, according to the findings.

The authors in the study said the point of the research was to “shed more light on extramarital sex, especially about the identity of extramarital partners along with gender differences and attitudes,” the press release states.

“We found that while most Americans still disapprove of extramarital sex, there has been a small change that may reflect more tolerance and flexibility in attitudes,” Labrecque says.

At the turn of the millennium, about 79 percent of U.S. citizens viewed cheating as “always wrong” and about 7 percent said cheating was “wrong only sometimes.

Sixteen years later, 76 percent of U.S. citizens said they viewing cheating as “always wrong,” and 9 percent viewed it as “wrong only sometimes.”

The research also notes that the number of married people who reported ever having sex with someone other than their spouse went down slightly from 2000 to 2016, from 17.8 percent in 2000 to 16.3 percent, respectively.

So why do people cheat? Whisman said a history of cheating behavior, more permissive attitudes toward cheating and a greater acceptance of casual sex are all related to a greater likelihood of engaging in cheating behavior.

“With respect to relationship factors, the association between lower relationship satisfaction and extramarital sex is a well-established finding,” Whisman said. “Finally, there are several contextual variables that have been linked with extramarital sex, including lack of religious attendance, work-related opportunities, and a social group in which extramarital sex is relatively more prevalent and accepted.”

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, gathered date from nearly a decade’s worth of responses of the General Social Survey, a 46-year-old social survey based out of the University of Chicago. The study analyzed responses from 13,030 people.
 

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