Could These 10 Questions Predict Infidelity?

An article published recently in the academic journal Social Sciences contains a 10-item scale that attempts to quantify a person’s “propensity towards infidelity.”

Not only does the scale aim to predict who might be likely to cheat on their partner, but it also provides clinicians with a valuable tool to prevent a breach of romantic trust before it happens.

“Marital infidelity is one of the most cited causes for divorce and one of the most commonly cited reasons why couples seek therapy,” say the authors of the paper, led by Carmen Lisman of Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iași in Romania. “At the same time, it is a very difficult problem to address in couples therapy.”

To better understand the factors that can cause a romantic transgression, the researchers developed a list of 25 possible statements to include in their scale—statements that corresponded to one of the following five motives for infidelity, as identified in prior research:

Sexuality: The need for sexual variety or feeling like one is sexually incompatible with their current partner.

  • Emotional dissatisfaction: Feeling a lack of intimacy, emotional connection, attention, or intellectual stimulation in one’s relationship.
  • Social context: Whether one is in a social context favorable to infidelity (e.g., spending lots of time with co-workers of the opposite sex or being physically distant from one’s partner).
  • Attitudes and norms: Whether someone is surrounded by people who have more permissive attitudes towards sex and relationships.
  • Revenge and/or hostility: A situation where someone engages in an act of infidelity to punish or exact revenge on their partner.

The researchers recruited two samples of adult participants to rate the 25 items, as well as answer other questions related to the topic of infidelity.

Using advanced statistical techniques, they identified the 10 most influential statements and used those to construct their “propensity towards infidelity” scale.

The final items, rated on a scale of strongly disagree to strongly agree, are as follows:

  • If my spouse would be unfaithful, it would seem natural to me to have an extramarital relationship.
  • Flirting with another person would make me feel wanted.
  • The lack of sexual relations with my spouse would be a reason for me to have an extramarital relationship.
  • It is plausible for me to have a relationship with someone else than my spouse if I feel emotionally bonded to him/her.
  • My spouse’s long-term absence would make me engage in relationships with other people.
  • Colleagues of the opposite sex represent a potential opportunity for an extramarital affair.
  • If I knew that my spouse would never find out, I could have an extramarital affair.
  • There are certain contexts in which it would be plausible to have an extramarital affair.
  • My spouse’s close relationship with a colleague of the opposite sex would make it likely for me to engage in a relationship with someone else.
  • The fact that other married friends have had extramarital relationships makes me think that it can happen to me.

“The main goal of this research was to develop an instrument measuring the propensity towards infidelity of heterosexual people in marital relationships on the basis of the five major categories of infidelity motives,” say the researchers. “The instrument developed and examined here addresses people’s motivational intensity towards infidelity—i.e., their psychological proneness or susceptibility to engage in such behaviors under certain circumstances.”

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