Love Thy Neighbour: Personality Traits, Relationship Quality, and Attraction to Others as Predictors of Infidelity among Young Adults

By Gibson, Kirstian A. V.; Thompson, Ashley E. et al. | The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Love Thy Neighbour: Personality Traits, Relationship Quality, and Attraction to Others as Predictors of Infidelity among Young Adults


Gibson, Kirstian A. V., Thompson, Ashley E., O'Sullivan, Lucia F., The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality


Infidelity is defined as the violation of a couple's assumed or stated agreement concerning emotional and/ or sexual exclusivity. The current study examined the utility of personality traits (i.e., the Big Five and SIS/ SES--an individual's sexual response to sexual desires, arousal, and behaviours are based on the balance between sexual excitation and sexual inhibition; Bancroft & Janssen, 2000) relative to relationship quality and attraction to others in predicting reports of infidelity among a sample of young adults (ages 1826 years). A total of 131 men and 164 women from the US who reported being in a romantic relationship were recruited using MTurk[R], an online crowdsourcing survey tool. Participants completed a series of measures assessing demographics, relationship quality and investment, sexual experience, sexual attitudes, attraction to others, and personality traits, including the Big Five and SIS/SES. A notable minority (16.6%) of participants reported at least one occasion of past infidelity during their current romantic relationship (yes/no reports); however, reports of infidelity increased significantly when individuals reported actual sexual, romantic, and online infidelity activities (78.6%). Personality traits within the Big Five and SIS/SES models were not significant predictors of infidelity. With each occurrence of emotional attraction to a person other than their current partner, the odds of reporting infidelity increased by 51.6%. The findings are discussed in terms of implications for counselling and education regarding infidelity, as well as continued research on risk factors for infidelity among young adults.

KEY WORDS: Infidelity, personality traits, relationship quality, attraction, young adults

INTRODUCTION

Nearly all adults (94%-99%) expect monogamy in both their romantic and sexual relationships (Treas & Giesen, 2000), with most adults believing that infidelity is always wrong (Carr, 2010; Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994). Infidelity, the "violation of a couple's assumed or stated agreement concerning emotional and/or sexual exclusivity" (Weeks, Gambescia, & Jenkins, 2003, p. xviii), can create considerable distress and is a leading cause of relationship dissolution between intimate partners (Amato & Previti, 2003; Betzig, 1989; Kitson, Babri, & Roach, 1985), with termination of the relationship being a common outcome (Harris, 2002). Several studies have examined whether specific personality traits are linked to infidelity (Orzeck & Lung, 2005; Shackelford, Besser, & Goetz, 2008); however, there is limited research assessing traits in any comprehensive way. Most studies have focused on just one or two traits. The current study examined two broad sets of personality traits in relation to reports of infidelity during a committed romantic relationship: the Big Five (Johnson, 2000) and the Sexual Inhibition/Excitation (Carpenter, Janssen, Graham, Vorst, & Wicherts, 2010) models. In addition, quality of the relationship and attraction to others were examined.

Rates of Infidelity

Despite strong social disapproval, infidelity is relatively common in marriage and dating relationships (Feldman & Cauffman, 1999; Hall & Fincham, 2009; Schmitt, 2004; Wiederman, 1997). Early reports of infidelity found that 50% of men and 25% of women engaged in extramarital behaviour at some point in their lives (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953). More recent findings suggest that reports of infidelity range from 23% to 63% among men and 19% to 45% among women (Mark, Janssen, & Milhausen, 2011; Schmitt, 2004), with rates comparatively high among those in dating and marital relationships.

Recent research has expanded our working definitions of infidelity beyond extradyadic sexual behaviour. Although there is often notable consensus on the behaviours that constitute sexual infidelity (Hansen, 1985; Roscoe, Cavanaugh, & Kennedy, 1988), emotional infidelity is often incorporated at some level into definitions of infidelity. …

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