Sexual anxiety, personality predictors of infidelity, study says

July 25, 2011, University of Guelph

People with sexual performance anxiety are more likely to cheat on their partners. That's just one of the curious findings of a new study by a University of Guelph professor on the factors that predict infidelity.

Men who are risk-takers or easily sexually aroused are also more likely to wander; for women, relationship issues are stronger predictors of unfaithfulness.

The study, published recently in the journal Archives of , is the first to look at how , interpersonal factors and sexual personality affect infidelity.

For both men and women, and interpersonal factors are more relevant predictors than are religion, , education or gender.

"Few studies on infidelity have gone beyond exploring demographics," said Robin Milhausen, a professor and researcher in Guelph's Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition who conducted the study with Kristen Mark and Erick Janssen of Indiana University.

"This research shows that demographic variables may not influence decision-making as much as previously thought — that personality matters more, especially for men."

The study involved 506 men and 412 women who reported being in monogamous sexual relationships lasting from three months to 43 years. Participants were asked to report on such as religion, education and income. They also completed scales that measured sexual personality variables and answered questions about their relationships.

The study found little difference in rates of infidelity reported by men and women (23 and 19 per cent, respectively). But different things predicted the behavior for men and women.

For men, significant predictors of infidelity are personality variables, including propensity for sexual excitation (becoming easily aroused by many triggers and situations) and concern about sexual performance failure.

The latter finding might seem counterintuitive, Milhausen said, but other studies have also found this connection. "People might seek out high-risk situations to help them become aroused, or they might choose to have sex with a partner outside of their regular relationship because they feel they have an 'out' if the encounter doesn't go well – they don't have to see them again."

For women, relationship happiness is paramount. Women who are dissatisfied with their relationship are more than twice as likely to cheat; those who feel they are sexually incompatible with their partners are nearly three times as likely.

"All kinds of things predict ," Milhausen said. "What this study says is that when you put all of those things together, for men, personality characteristics are so strong they bounce everything else out of the model. For women, in the face of all other variables, it's still the relationship that is the most important predictor."

Milhausen cautions against misinterpreting or overemphasizing the study's findings. "Taken at face value, this research might seem to just support sexual stereotypes: Women are just concerned about the relationship, and, for men, once a cheater, always a cheater, regardless of their relationship. But the caveat is that there are a lot of variants and factors that are not explained here that might impact whether someone cheats."

Still, knowing that sexual personality characteristics — and, for , relationship factors — are strong predictors suggests directions for therapeutic interventions, she said.

Milhausen, who joined U of G in 2006 did her PhD at Indiana University, home of the renowned Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, where co-author Janssen is a researcher. Mark, the study's lead author and a PhD student at Indiana's University Centre for Sexual Health Promotion, is Milhausen's former graduate student.

Explore further: Insights into infidelity: Study examines influence of sexual personality characteristics

Related Stories

Insights into infidelity: Study examines influence of sexual personality characteristics

June 27, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In a new study, men and women were more likely to report infidelity, or cheating -- often a marriage or relationship deal-breaker -- when they also experienced an increased sensitivity for sexual performance ...

Let your fingers do the talking: Sexting and infidelity in cyberspace

June 20, 2011
Although sex and infidelity are now only a keyboard away, at the end of the day, there is no substitute for physical, face-to-face contact in our sexual relationships. That's according to a new study by Diane Kholos Wysocki, ...

Couples report gender differences in relationship, sexual satisfaction over time

July 5, 2011
Cuddling and caressing are important ingredients for long-term relationship satisfaction, according to an international study that looks at relationship and sexual satisfaction throughout committed relationships, but contrary ...

Recommended for you

People with prosthetic arms less affected by common illusion

January 22, 2018
People with prosthetic arms or hands do not experience the "size-weight illusion" as strongly as other people, new research shows.

Study of learning and memory problems in OCD helps young people unlock potential at school

January 22, 2018
Adolescents with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have widespread learning and memory problems, according to research published today. The findings have already been used to assist adolescents with OCD obtain the help ...

Intensive behavior therapy no better than conventional support in treating teenagers with antisocial behavior

January 19, 2018
Research led by UCL has found that intensive and costly multisystemic therapy is no better than conventional therapy in treating teenagers with moderate to severe antisocial behaviour.

Babies' babbling betters brains, language

January 18, 2018
Babies are adept at getting what they need - including an education. New research shows that babies organize mothers' verbal responses, which promotes more effective language instruction, and infant babbling is the key.

College branding makes beer more salient to underage students

January 18, 2018
In recent years, major beer companies have tried to capitalize on the salience of students' university affiliations, unveiling marketing campaigns and products—such as "fan cans," store displays, and billboard ads—that ...

Inherited IQ can increase in early childhood

January 18, 2018
When it comes to intelligence, environment and education matter – more than we think.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

stealthc
not rated yet Jul 26, 2011
gotta love these studies "predicting" that people will be cheaters. I don't buy it some people aren't cheaters because they have morals and they enjoy the notion of having a family, even if they do fit their "easily excitable" and "risk taking" profiling.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.