Family Background and Propensity to Engage in Infidelity: Exploring an Intergenerational Transmission of Infidelity
AuthorWeiser, Dana A.
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The purpose of the current dissertation project was to explore whether the experience of a parental infidelity is associated with a greater likelihood of offspring having engaged in infidelity, as well as test a theoretical model grounded in social learning theory to help explain why such intergenerational infidelity patterns may exist. Results revealed that the experience of a parental infidelity is positively associated with a number of infidelity behaviors. Structural equation modeling revealed support for the theoretical model in that the experience of a parental infidelity was related to offspring's reports of having received negative messages about fidelity and faithfulness, and positive messages about infidelity from their family-of-origin. These family communications were then positively associated with more permissive infidelity beliefs, which in turn were associated with higher levels of infidelity behavior. Similar patterns emerged for both males and females, although it appeared that the experience of a father infidelity is also directly related to son's infidelity behavior. To an extent, participants who reported that their parents remained married following an infidelity indicated more favorable infidelity beliefs and higher levels of infidelity behavior. Attachment style and age when offspring first suspected infidelity were unrelated to infidelity behavior. Based on these findings, it is recommended that additional research is undertaken to further explain an intergenerational transmission of infidelity, and that clinicians and relationship educators address family background experiences when attempting to treat and prevent infidelity.