After the Kinsey Reports came out in the early s, findings suggested that historically and cross-culturally, extramarital sex has been a matter of regulation more than sex before marriage.
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For example, one study conducted by the University of Washington, Seattle found slightly, or significantly higher rates of infidelity for populations under 35, or older than Rates of infidelity among women are thought to increase with age. In one study, rates were higher in more recent marriages, compared with previous generations; men were found to be only "somewhat" more likely than women to engage in infidelity, with rates for both sexes becoming increasingly similar.
One measure of infidelity is covert illegitimacy , a situation which arises when someone who is presumed to be a child's father or mother is in fact not the biological parent.
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Differences in sexual infidelity as a function of gender have been commonly reported. It is more common for men compared to women to engage in extradyadic relationships. In addition, recent research finds that differences in gender may possibly be explained by other mechanisms including power and sensations seeking. For example, one study found that some women in more financially independent and higher positions of power, were also more likely to be more unfaithful to their partners. There is currently debate in the field of evolutionary psychology whether an innate, evolved sex difference exists between men and women in response to an act of infidelity; this is often called a "sex difference".
A study published in suggested there may be sex differences in jealousy. Women, who do not face the risk of cuckoldry, are theorized to maximize their fitness by investing as much as possible in their offspring because they invest at least nine months of resources towards their offspring in pregnancy. These conflicting strategies are theorized to have resulted in selection of different jealousy mechanisms that are designed to enhance the fitness of the respective gender.
A common way to test whether an innate jealousy response exists between sexes is to use a forced-choice questionnaire.
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This style of questionnaire asks participants "yes or no" and "response A or response B" style questions about certain scenarios. For example, a question might ask, "If you found your partner cheating on you would you be more upset by A the sexual involvement or B the emotional involvement". Many studies using forced choice questionnaires have found statistically significant results supporting an innate sex difference between men and women. Although forced-choice questionnaires show a statistically significant sex-difference, critics of the theory of evolved sex differences in jealousy question these findings.
In consideration of the entire body of work on sex differences, C. Harris asserted that when methods other than forced-choice questionnaires are used to identify an innate sex difference, inconsistencies between studies begin to arise. The results of these studies also depended on the context in which the participants were made to describe what type of jealousy they felt, as well as the intensity of their jealousy. In her meta-analysis, Harris raises the question of whether forced choice questionnaires actually measure what they purport: jealousy itself and evidence that differences in jealousy arise from innate mechanisms.
According to Harris, a meta-analysis of multiple types of studies should indicate a convergence of evidence and multiple operationalizations. This is not the case, which raises the question as to the validity of forced-choice studies.
DeSteno and Bartlett further support this argument by providing evidence which indicates that significant results of forced-choice studies may actually be an artifact of measurement; this finding would invalidate many of the claims made by those "in favor" of an "innate" sex difference. These inconsistent results have led researchers to propose novel theories that attempt to explain the sex differences observed in certain studies.
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One theory that has been hypothesized to explain why men and women both report more distress to emotional infidelity than sexual infidelity is borrowed from childhood attachment theories. Studies have found that attachment styles of adults are consistent with their self-reported relationship histories. The authors propose that a social mechanism may be responsible for the observed results. In other words, replicable sex differences in emotion and sexual jealousy could be a function of a social function.
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Similar studies focusing on the masculinization and feminization by society also argue for a social explanation, while discounting an evolutionary explanation. A study found a correlation between AVPR1A expression and predisposition to extrapair mating in women but not in men. Evolutionary researchers have suggested that men and women have innate mechanisms that contribute to why they become sexually jealous, especially for certain types of infidelity. Symons determined that sexual jealousy is the major reason that many homosexual men are unsuccessful in maintaining monogamous relationships  and suggests that all men are innately disposed to want sexual variation, with the difference between heterosexual and homosexual men being that homosexual men can find willing partners more often for casual sex, and thus satisfy this innate desire for sexual variety.
Peplau and Cochran found that sexual exclusivity was much more important to heterosexual men and women compared to homosexual men and women. This theory suggests that it is not sexuality that may lead to differences but that people are prone to jealousy in domains that are especially important to them. Harris tested these hypotheses among individuals: 48 homosexual women, 50 homosexual men, 40 heterosexual women, and 49 heterosexual men.
Heterosexuals rated emotional and sexual infidelity as more emotionally distressing than did lesbian and gay individuals. Sex and sexual orientation differences emerged regarding the degree to which specific emotions were reported in response to sexual and emotional infidelity. Few researchers have explored the influence of sexual orientation on which type of infidelity is viewed as more distressing.
Summarizing the findings from these studies, heterosexual men seem to be more distressed by sexual infidelity than heterosexual women, lesbian women, and gay men. Some studies suggest that only a small percentage of couples that experience infidelity actually improve their relationship, whereas others report couples having surprisingly positive relationship outcomes. The negative impact of infidelity on a relationship depends on how involved partners are in their infidelity relationship, and researchers maintain that infidelity itself does not cause divorce but the overall level of relationship satisfaction, motives for infidelity, level of conflict, and attitudes held about infidelity do.
If divorce results from infidelity, research suggest that the "faithful" spouse may experience feelings of low life satisfaction and self-esteem; they may also engage in future relationships fearful of the same incidence occurring. Infidelity causes extreme emotions to occur between males and females alike. Emotions have been proven to change through this process. Below, the three phases of infidelity beginning, during and after are explained.
Infidelity is the biggest fear in most romantic relationships and even friendships. No individual wants to be cheated on and replaced by another, this act usually makes people feel unwanted, jealous, angry and incompetent.
The initial stage of the infidelity process is the suspicious beginning; the stage in which it has not been proven, but warning signs are beginning to surface. While suspicion is not hard evidence in infidelity and cannot prove anything, it does affect a person's affective emotions and cognitive states. Jealousy, the feeling of incompetence, and anger can all be felt in both the affective and cognitive states of emotions; infidelity has a different impact in each of those connected states. Affective emotions and response are a primary factor in the initial stages of infidelity on both sides.
Affective behaviors are how we deal with emotions that we do not anticipate. An affective response immediately indicates to an individual whether something is pleasant or unpleasant and whether they decide to approach or avoid a situation. To begin, affective emotions and the effect infidelity has on affective jealousy. Both men and women alike feel some kind of jealousy when they suspect their significant other is being unfaithful. If some individual suspects that he or she is being cheated on they begin to question their partner's actions and may possibly act in more frustrated ways towards them than they normally would.
The affective use of jealousy in a seemingly unfaithful relationship is caused by the accusing partner anticipating the infidelity from the other. Another affective emotion in this beginning stage is incompetence. Feeling incompetent can spring from multiple things in a relationship, but during the initial stages of infidelity, a person can experience this on an increased level. When someone is having incompetent feelings due to someone else's actions they begin to resent them, creating a build-up and eventually an affective emotion outburst over something small.
The faithful partner is not normally aware that their suspicion is the reason they feel incompetent in the relationship and do not expect to be so irritated by the change of simple things; making it an affective response in this stage of infidelity. An additional affective response or emotion seen in initial infidelity is anger. Anger is an emotion that is felt in all stages of infidelity, but in different ways and at different calibers. In the initial stages of infidelity anger is an underlying emotion that is usually exposed after the buildup of other emotions such as jealousy and Resentment.
Anger is noticed to be a key emotion within a situation like infidelity, it takes on many roles and forms throughout the process but in the initial stage of cheating, anger can be an affective emotion because of how unpredictable and rapid it can happen without thinking of one's actions and feelings before doing so. Cognitive emotions and states tend to be felt in the initial stages of infidelity whenever the faithful partner is alone or left alone by the suspected unfaithful one. Cognitive emotions and responses are that of those in which an individual anticipates them.
To begin with cognitive responses in infidelity, individuals who have been cheated on experience jealousy cognitively for many reasons. They may feel that their partner has lost interest in them and feel that they cannot compare to the persons with whom they are being cheated on with. Therefore, they anticipate the loss of their partner's emotional interest in them and become jealous for more clear reasons. The anticipation of jealous feelings towards an individual's significant other causes a cognitive response, even without the burden of proof.
Some more cognitive responses in the young stages of infidelity are incompetence and resentfulness. In the initial stages of infidelity, the feeling of incompetence can lead to cognitive resentment.
The partner being cheated on will begin to feel that anything and everything they do is not enough, they may feel incompetent in the ways of love, affection, or sex. Whenever an individual suspects that they are being cheated on they try to change their behavior in hopes of keeping or getting their partner's attention back onto themselves instead of on the person whom they are having another relationship with. People cheat for many reasons and each of those can cause a faithful person to believe they are not competent enough to be in a romantic relationship.
This feeling leads to the resentment of the unfaithful partner's actions and becomes an ongoing emotion throughout the stages of infidelity instead of simply being a quick and immediate response to a partner's actions. Lastly, anger in infidelity is quite inevitable.
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In the initial stage of infidelity, anger is not as apparent as it is seen in stage two, because there is not hard facts or evidence supporting one's suspicions. As previously talked about, the accuser most likely feels jealous and incompetent in the first stage of cheating. These emotions can contract into anger and provide a cognitive state of anger because the accusing person anticipates his or her anger. Unlike jealousy and resentment, it is hard to identify the purpose or cause of the individual's anger because in reality there is nothing yet to be angry about, there is no proof of their romantic partner's unfaithfulness.
It is hard to pinpoint the anger emotion in the initial stages due to ambiguity; therefore, it begins to take on other emotions turning into a cognitive state of emotional turmoil. The individual knows they are angry and anticipates it, but cannot logically explain it to their partner because of the lack of evidence they have. Infidelity, perhaps the worst relational crime, is defined as the action or state of being unfaithful to a romantic partner. The victim of the crime can experience long-lasting emotional damage as a result.
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Relationships give people a sense of belongingness and contributes to self-esteem. According to the Attachment theory , intimates develop mental representations of the availability of close others that lead to strong cognitive and behavioral patterns of responding to those others. Those who develop a more secure attachment style believe others are available to them and behave accordingly, those who develop an insecure attachment tend to believe others are less available to them and behave accordingly. Those types of people cope by seeking reassurance and clinging themselves to another person.