Sociology Faculty Publications

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This study examines several aspects of the association between engaging in extramarital sex and the disruption of one’s marriage. Panel data on 1621 respondents followed from 1980 – 2000 in the Marital Instability Over the Life Course survey were utilized to answer these questions. Interval-censored Cox regression analysis revealed several noteworthy findings. As previously found in earlier analyses with these data, reports of problems due to extramarital involvement were strongly related to marital disruption, even holding constant the quality of the marriage. Although men were about three times more likely to be the cheating spouse, there was no difference in the effect of an affair on the marriage according to gender of the cheater. Approximately 40% of the effect of extramarital sex on disruption was accounted for by the mediating factors of marital quality, tolerance of divorce, and wife’s employment. Two moderators of infidelity’s positive effect on disruption were found: the effect was substantially stronger for very religious couples, but weaker when the wife was in the labor force.

Publisher's Statement

This research was supported in part by the Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University, which has core funding from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R24HD050959-01). All correspondence regarding this manuscript should be addressed to the author at Department of Sociology, BGSU, Bowling Green, OH, 43403. Email: Phone: (419) 372-7257. Fax: (419) 372-8306.

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Journal of Family Issues


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