A surprising new study, published in the June edition of the American Sociological Review, has found that both men and women are increasingly likely to cheat on their spouses if they are more economically dependent upon those significant others. What the heck, people?!
The study authors, who used data collected between 2001 and 2011, looked at more than 2,750 married people between the ages of 18 and 32. They found that there is a five-percent chance that a woman who is completely economically dependent upon her husband will cheat, and that there is a 15-percent change that a man who relies upon his wife for money will have an affair.
“You would think that people would not want to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ so to speak, but that is not what my research shows. Instead, the findings indicate people like feeling relatively equal in their relationships. People don’t like to feel dependent on another person,” study author Christin L. Munsch, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, said in a statement.
Threats to masculinity play a key role
Munsch’s analysis revealed that economic dependency increases the likelihood of engaging in infidelity for both men and women, and that there seems to be something that makes men who are not the primary wage-earners in their family more likely to have an affair than women that are not the primary breadwinners.
Males can perceive earning less than their wives as a threat to their masculinity, she explained, and extramarital affairs provide them with an outlet to exercise that masculinity. In men of all ages, but particularly in younger males, sexual conquest in the form of multiple partners can be perceived as a way to combat threats to their manhood.
“Thus, engaging in infidelity may be a way of reestablishing threatened masculinity,” Munsch said, adding that infidelity also provides husbands with a way to “distance themselves from, and perhaps punish, their higher earning spouses.” Conversely, with women, the professor found that those who earned a larger percentage of combined martial income were less likely to cheat.
“Women who out earn their husbands challenge the status quo,” she explained, noting that when females earn 100 percent of their family’s total income, they are least likely to cheat. In previous research, women who are primary breadwinners were “acutely aware” of the ways in which they defied cultural expectations, and as a result, often suffer from insomnia, high levels of anxiety, and increase their own workload to strengthen their husband’s masculinity.