Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Master of Science in Family Sciences (MSFS)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Agriculture, Food and Environment

Department

Family Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Ronald Werner-Wilson

Abstract

Infidelity is the most often cited reason for divorce in the United States and much of the world. Providing therapy for a couple trying to recover from infidelity is one of the most difficult and complex presenting problems for therapists. Much of the existing research that predicts responses to infidelity subscribes to an evolutionary psychology perspective, predicting response by gender differently based on motives concerning procreation. Males would find sexual infidelity more threatening because paternity would be uncertain, females would find emotional infidelity more threatening because of the risk of resources and protection being diverted to another female’s offspring. Much of the evolutionary psychology experiments utilize samples of college students responding to hypothetical infidelity scenarios. The current study includes 58 respondents who are currently in marriages where infidelity took place or previously in marriages where infidelity took place. Social construction theory and peripheral relational items (children) were used to analyze respondents’ experiences in marriages where infidelity occurred. Results from the study indicate that not only is a couple’s idealization of their gender roles predictive of whether the couple remains intact in the aftermath of infidelity, but also which spouse had the affair and the existence of children are significant variables.

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