University of Connecticut Study Finds That Economic Dependency Increases the Odds of Marital Infidelity

MunschA new study authored by Christin L. Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut finds that men and women who are more economically dependent on their spouses are more likely to cheat on their partners. The study found that economic dependency increases the likelihood of infidelity for both men and women, but the effect is far more pronounced for men. Dr. Munsch’s data found that 15 percent of men who are economically dependent on their wives cheat on them. This is true for only 5 percent of women who are economically dependent on their husbands, according to the data.

“You would think that people would not want to ‘bite the hand that feeds them’ so to speak,” Dr. Munsch says. “But that is not what my research shows. The finding indicate that people like feeling relatively equal in their relationships. People don’t like to feel dependent on another person.”

Dr Munsch goes on to say that “extramarital sex allows men undergoing a masculinity threat – that is, not being primary breadwinners, as is culturally expected – to engage in behavior culturally associated with masculinity. For men, especially young men, the dominant definition of masculinity is scripted in terms of sexual virility and conquest, particularly with respect to multiple sex partners. Thus, engaging in infidelity may be a way of reestablishing threatened masculinity. Simultaneously, infidelity allows threatened men to distance themselves from, and perhaps punish, their higher-earning spouses.”

Dr. Munsch joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut after teaching at Furman University in South Carolina. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and holds a master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Cornell University.

The research “Her Support, His Support: Money, Masculinity, and Marital Infidelity,” appears in the June issue of the American Sociological Review. It may be accessed here.

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