This study assumes an age-based perspective in investigating people’s attitudes towards infidelity. It was domiciled in an institutional setting and 50 respondents (aged between 23 and 38 years) took part in it. The goal of the study was to investigate the relationship between personality and infidelity among Millennials. Three main research questions guided the investigation. The first one was to find out if there is a relationship between personality types and attitudes towards infidelity, while the second one was to examine the correlation between attitudes towards infidelity and demographic differences in the population. The last goal of the study was to explore the relationship between personality types, attitudes towards relationships and level of control between men and women among relationships. Overall, the findings showed that personality types were correlated with attitudes towards infidelity.
Infidelity is among the most common causes of divorce and failed marriages (van Hooff 2017). It is also one of the most common violations of implicit or explicit rules regarding sexual and emotional exclusivity in male and female relationships (Wang & Apostolou 2019). Infidelity occurs in different forms; however, researchers commonly view it as being either emotional or sexual (Pizarro & Gaspay-Fernandez 2015; Wang & Apostolou 2019). In other words, a person is deemed unfaithful if he or she does not subscribe to the rules of sexual or emotional exclusivity. Therefore, unfaithfulness depends on the expectations regarding exclusivity in a relationship.
In many different forms of marriages or relationships around the world, expectations of sexual and emotional exclusivity are often assumed but not met (Richardson, Dariotis & Lai 2017). When these expectations are unfulfilled, affected partners may feel betrayed and suffer psychological damage as a result. These effects may influence other relationships in their lives. Feelings of rage and betrayal are also commonly reported among such people (Pizarro & Gaspay-Fernandez 2015; Wang & Apostolou 2019). These outcomes are commonly accompanied by low sexual or personal confidence. Men and women both suffer the effects of infidelity, especially if the betrayal is public. However, these effects vary across different cultures, age groups, personalities and gender assignment roles.
The most common problem that affects couples in relationships is their varying conceptions of infidelity. Indeed, it is possible to find partners in a relationship having different conceptualisations of the concept despite being in the same union. This problem comes from the fact that infidelity is a subjective issue and cannot be holistically conceived within the implicit and explicit rules of modern-day relationships. Particularly, perceptions about infidelity differ across age groups, and few studies have bothered to understand the effects of personality or generational differences on people’s attitudes towards infidelity. This study will investigate the relationship between personality and infidelity among Millennials through a regression analysis that will include age and personality types as the independent variables and attitude towards infidelity as the dependent variable. The research aim and objectives are listed below.
To explore the relationship between personality and infidelity among Millennials.
- To find out if there is a relationship between personality types and attitudes towards infidelity
- To examine the correlation between attitudes towards infidelity and demographic differences among Millennials
- To explore the relationship between personality types, attitudes towards relationships and level of control between men and women in modern-day relationships
Personality affects attitudes towards infidelity.
Importance of Study
Infidelity is not a new phenomenon. It is one of the biggest problems affecting couples (Pizarro & Gaspay-Fernandez 2015; Wang & Apostolou 2019). An investigation of the relationship between personality and infidelity would help to address this problem by improving therapy strategies in marriage counselling because unfaithfulness among partners is one of the most difficult problems to treat during therapy (Hellstrand & Chrysochoou, 2015). The prediction of infidelity through an analysis of personality types and Millennials’ perspectives on emotional and sexual exclusivity in relationships would help in establishing long-term commitment among partners by equipping people to better understand people’s likelihood of being unfaithful. In sum, this study will explore the perspectives of Millennials towards infidelity using an institutional setting as the main platform for conducting the investigation. The Millennial generation is relevant to contemporary society because it is quickly shaping societal norms and expectations in both work and home environments (Dimock 2019).
This chapter of the paper highlights what other researchers have said about the research topic. Key issues that are explored in this section include the causes of infidelity, its effects, characteristics of unfaithful partners, theories that explain infidelity and the role of sociocultural or demographic factors in defining people’s attitudes towards the vice. However, before delving into these details, it is important to understand the theoretical framework of the study.
The attachment theory is the main conceptual framework for this study. Researchers have used it to understand people’s attitudes towards infidelity (Brase, Adair & Monk 2014). The theory posits that infidelity is a product of people’s attachment to a partner or caregiver (Reinert & Edwards 2014). It also suggests that a person’s attachment style determines their level of emotional reaction towards infidelity (Fletcher & Fitness 2014). Proponents of this theory developed it after conducting several studies to assess how people develop closeness in relationships (Reinert & Edwards 2014). These studies stem from attachment styles, which have been associated with the ability to predict infidelity behaviours (Brase, Adair & Monk 2014).
They suggest that people who have secure attachment styles are less likely to be unfaithful to their partners compared to those who have less secure attachment styles (Brase, Adair & Monk 2014). Notably, avoidant attachment styles are associated with “angry” personality types where individuals are likely to fault their partners for making them unfaithful (Fletcher & Fitness 2014). The above-mentioned insights show that researchers have used attachment theory to predict unfaithfulness by using people’s childhood attachment experiences. Thus, their contributions justify the use of the attachment theory as the main theoretical framework for this study.
Causes of Infidelity
Most studies that have explored the concept of infidelity point out that gender differences between partners who are in a committed relationship influence how they cheat and why they do so (Arnocky, Pearson & Vaillancourt 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). For example, most studies suggest that men are mostly unfaithful to their partners because of sexual dissatisfaction, while women cheat because of emotional dissatisfaction (Arnocky, Pearson & Vaillancourt 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). To further support this assertion, studies authored by van Hooff (2017) and Zapien (2017) point out that women often cited relationship dissatisfaction as the major cause of infidelity, while men deemed poor communication, a lack of understanding by their partners and sexual incompatibility as the main causes of infidelity.
Studies conducted by researchers such as Hughes and Harrison (2017) also allude to the same dynamic because they found that partners who engage in emotional and sexual infidelity are more likely to be dissatisfied with their patterns compared with those who engage in either sexual or emotional infidelity. Broadly, these studies suggest that “dissatisfaction” is the biggest cause of infidelity among both men and women. However, this view does not negate the existence of other reasons people can be unfaithful in a relationship.
Effects of Infidelity
The partial acceptability of infidelity in some societies has been linked with the ability of male and female partners to separate the concepts of love and sex. Therefore, people who are better at understanding the differences between the two concepts are likely to be more accepting of the vice, while those who cannot differentiate between both concepts are affected more by unfaithfulness (Wang & Apostolou 2019). Infidelity has also been linked with broken marriages, and in extreme cases, suicide (Arnocky, Pearson & Vaillancourt 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). Therefore, these adverse effects are traced to the emotional and psychological harm that affected partners often experience when a partner betrays them. In turn, it affects stability in marriages and relationships. Consequently, children are also affected because they can lose one parent or grow up in unstable family settings where they do not get the love and support from both parents as they should if both of them were living together (Reinert & Edwards 2014). Therefore, based on the mentioned insight, infidelity does not only cause psychological harm to patients but also affects children’s developmental progress.
Characteristics of Unfaithful Partners
Different researchers have tried to investigate the characteristics of partners who are unfaithful. Their research studies suggest that many factors could influence the likelihood of people being faithful or unfaithful to their partners. For example, people who have had a high number of partners in their past relationships are known to have a higher risk of being unfaithful compared to those that had fewer sexual relationships (Pizarro & Gaspay-Fernandez 2015; Wang & Apostolou 2019). Other factors that influence people’s likelihood of being unfaithful are educational levels and income disparities (Arnocky, Pearson & Vaillancourt 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). Relative to this finding, studies have also shown that those who have a higher education level and income are more likely to be unfaithful compared to those who have a low income or educational level (Pizarro & Gaspay-Fernandez 2015; Wang & Apostolou 2019).
Residency (closeness to urban centres) and religious affiliations are also other demographic factors that influence a person’s probability of being unfaithful. Again, studies have shown that people who are close to urban areas or live in large cities are likely to be unfaithful to their partners compared to those who live in rural areas (Selterman & Koleva 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). Religion also affects people’s propensity to be unfaithful because it is associated with their perceptions of liberalism. Therefore, religious people are less likely to be faithful compared to their non-religious counterparts.
Although studies have investigated different issues surrounding infidelity, there is a consensus among many researchers that do not all couples perceive infidelity in the same manner (Neal & Lemay 2019; Brase, Adair & Monk 2014). Thus, the discrepancy in opinion can affect how therapists undertake marriage counselling or how they formulate instructional strategies for helping partners live harmoniously with one another. Therefore, the failure to understand the varied views regarding infidelity could complicate the healing process, especially for partners who want to overcome infidelity and move on with their lives.
The varying perceptions and attitudes of infidelity in contemporary society can be understood through the postmodernism lens, which argues that there is no single definition of infidelity (Selterman & Koleva 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). This view departs from the modernist view of infidelity, which presupposes that people’s actions are rational and can be evaluated from an objective perspective (Neal & Lemay 2019; Brase, Adair & Monk 2014). The creation of an objective perspective implies that infidelity should only be perceived from one lens. However, different generations or age groups have subjective views of infidelity.
Sociocultural Factors Affecting Attitudes towards Infidelity
Researchers such as VanderWeele (2017) and Lopez (2017) have highlighted the influence of different demographic variables on attitudes towards infidelity. Particularly, they have highlighted the role of religion in promoting fidelity and discouraging premarital sex (VanderWeele 2017; Lopez 2017). Therefore, based on the religious commitment that most people attribute to religion, its beliefs and values have an influence on how people perceive infidelity or remain committed to their partners. This view is supported by a study authored by Lopez (2017), which shows that most people who do not have a religious commitment have a high probability of engaging in extramarital relations compared to those who are religious.
It should be noted that studies have also shown that education levels and gender also have a significant impact on perceptions towards infidelity. For example, two books authored by Rhode (2016) and Quah (2015) show that highly educated people are likely to have liberal views towards infidelity compared to their counterparts who do not have the same educational qualifications. Men are also deemed more tolerant of infidelity compared to their female counterparts (Rhode 2016; Quah 2015). Nonetheless, it is important to note that these associations are not absolute because some studies have shown variations in male and female perspectives regarding infidelity (Arnocky, Pearson & Vaillancourt 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014). For example, age is a moderator of the above relationships. Therefore, it is common to find older people being less accepting of infidelity compared to their younger counterparts (across all genders) (Arnocky, Pearson & Vaillancourt 2015; Kostic & Yadon 2014).
The level of control exercised by both men and women in relationships also affects people’s perceptions of infidelity. This issue is mostly cultural because patriarchal societies give a lot of power to men who influence how members of society view infidelity (Munsch 2018). In such societies, infidelity is often more generally accepted compared to matriarchal societies, where women have stronger control over family life (Munsch 2018). Therefore, matriarchal societies tend to be less accepting of infidelity compared to patriarchal societies (Munsch 2018). The differences between these two types of societies have largely been linked to gender differences in understanding infidelity (Rhode 2016; Quah 2015).
Studies that have investigated infidelity as a key societal problem have mostly focused on the roles of societal, economic and gender-defining roles in moderating male-female relationships. Few of them have explored infidelity from the perspective of an unfaithful partner. This paper seeks to explore the relationship between personality types and infidelity among Millennials. The researcher assumes an age-based approach to completing the assessment because different generations have varied perceptions of infidelity.
This chapter explains the research approaches adopted by the researcher to answer the research questions. Notably, it explains the techniques used to undertake the review and the justifications for doing so. Key sections of this chapter highlight the research approach, type of analysis undertaken, types of survey used, nature of the research participants and the ethical considerations observed by the researcher when carrying out the investigation.
According to Strike et al. (2016), there are two main research approaches in research: qualitative and quantitative. Researchers who want to investigate subjective issues in research use the qualitative method, while the quantitative approach is applicable in situations where researchers strive to investigate measurable research variables (Brady 2015). To support this view, Snelson (2016), Caffery, Martin-Khan and Wade (2017) say that qualitative data involves the collection of subjective information, while quantitative data involves the collection of quantifiable data. The current research is a quantitative study because its variables (age, personality types and attitudes towards infidelity) are measurable.
Type of Analysis
The researcher linked quantitative data with the research question by underscoring the nature of the relationship between personality types and infidelity. An individual score was attributed to each independent and outcome variable, and the scores reviewed through the multiple regression model. The multiple regression model was operationalised using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS). Several researchers affirm the technique’s proficiency in determining the overall fit of variance for multiple variables (Page et al. 2014; Brady 2015; Snelson 2016; Ozgur, Kleckner & Li 2015).
Type of Survey
According to Trochim (2019), there are two major types of surveys: questionnaires and interviews. The researcher used questionnaires as the main type of survey technique. Its adoption was appropriate for the study because it allowed the researcher to collect information from a large group of people. In addition, questionnaires provide an inexpensive method of data collection. The researcher measured the respondents’ attitudes towards infidelity using the attitude towards infidelity scale developed by Cengage (2019). The scale provides seven indicators of infidelity whereby the strongest statements are “strongly agree” and “strongly disagree.” Conversely, the researcher measured personality types using the HEXACO model of personality, which categorises personalities in terms of agreeableness, openness to experience, extraversion, emotionality, conscientiousness and honesty-humility (Ashton & Lee 2009).
The survey method was used to collect data in the proposed study because it enabled the researcher to measure psychological constructs that were not easily quantifiable (Greve & Thomsen 2016). The use of questionnaires added to the validity of the study because experts have extensively tested and used them to complete studies that investigate people’s attitudes towards social issues (Malik & Garg 2018). The survey technique was also appropriate for the study because the researcher conducted an investigation in an institutional setting. Therefore, by randomly distributing questionnaires to a sample of students, a cross-sectional view of students’ views towards infidelity was obtained (Zhang & Savalei 2016).
The degree of emotional intensity towards infidelity was an enduring factor that affected the study design. This concern is attributed to the development of the measurement scale because it needs to sufficiently reflect varying levels of emotional intensity towards infidelity. Consequently, the proposed scale had seven points of emotional intensity. How to word the questions was also another design issue that affected the study design. Particularly, wording bias that occurs when respondents answer “leading questions” posed a threat. To overcome this issue, the researcher adopted the interview questions to a pre-tested group of statements outlined by Cengage (2019). Lastly, to improve the credibility of the information obtained, a pilot study was undertaken and the findings measured through the member-check technique, which gave the respondents an opportunity to verify whether the information published represented their views.
The researcher recruited participants using the random sampling method, as described by Martino, Luengo and Míguez (2018), who said that respondents recruited through a random sampling method have an equal chance of taking part in a study. Broadly, the researcher recruited 50 students to take part in the study. This number was determined through a sample size calculator developed by Creative Research Systems (2019) with a confidence level of 95%.
The sample population was comprised of students in the researcher’s institution of higher learning. There was no gender bias during the recruitment, and only students who were between the ages of 23 and 38 participated in the study. The justification for selecting students from this age group was based on the definition of Millennials provided by Dimock (2019), which suggests that they comprise people who were born between 1981 and 1996. The participants received a physical copy of the questionnaire and an informed consent form. The researcher administered the questionnaire face-to-face.
According to Strike et al. (2016), Briers (2017) and Hunter (2015), it is important for researchers who use human subjects in academic projects to demonstrate respect for respondents. Consequently, the main ethical considerations observed in the study are outlined below.
- Informed consent – The researcher did not coerce or incentivise participants to take part in the project.
- Confidentiality – To protect the identity of the respondents, the researcher presented the information anonymously. Furthermore, the respondents were notified that the information provided in the research would only be for academic purposes and not to publicise their views on infidelity.
- Deception – The researcher informed the participants about the purpose of the study before taking part in it. The goal was to secure their participation through full disclosure.
- Debrief – The researcher provided the participants with details about the hypothesis tested. At the end of the study, they received a debriefing statement via their emails.
- Psychological and physical harm: The researcher took the precaution to safeguard the safety of the participants by ensuring the research happened in a safe institutional environment.
- Withdraw: the researcher allowed participants to withdraw from the study without any repercussions.
Findings and Discussion
According to chapter three above, the researcher collected the respondents’ views using a survey questionnaire. This data collection instrument had three parts. The first one captured the respondents’ demographic information (education level, gender and religion), while the second part measured the respondents’ personalities according to the 60-item HEXACO personality test. The last part sought to find out the respondents’ views regarding attitudes towards infidelity. The findings of each section are described below.
As highlighted in figure 1 below, most of the respondents sampled had a high school education level (38%). Thirty-seven per cent of the students were undergraduates, while those who had a diploma were 12%. Lastly, respondents who had acquired a master’s degree were 10%, while the lowest sample of the population had a PhD (or higher) degree (3%). These findings are summarised in figure 1 below.
Gender was another demographic variable investigated in the study. The main purpose of including this data was to find out how many respondents were male and female. Figure 2 below shows that most of the respondents who took part in the study were male (61%), while female respondents were only 39%. Figure 2 below summarises the findings.
The third variable investigated in the study was the respondents’ religious affiliations. The students were given five choices: Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, atheist and “others.” Figure 3 below shows that a large percentage of students (75%) were Christians, while 12% of them were Muslims. In addition, atheists comprised 10% of the total sample, while those who identified with “other” religions were 3%. No respondent identified with the Buddhist faith.
Correlations among Variables
The demographic data (gender, religion and education levels) were included in the regression analysis as covariates. A zero-order correlation was reported among the dependent and independent variables. An investigation of the relationship between attitudes towards infidelity and demographic variables revealed that positive attitudes towards infidelity shared a weak correlation with gender and religion. However, the positive attitudes towards infidelity shared a positive correlation with education level. In addition, a negative attitude towards infidelity was more common among females (66.1%) compared to males (55%). Religion also shared a moderate and negative correlation with neutral and positive attitudes towards infidelity.
The relationship between HEXACO’s personality types and infidelity shared a negative or moderate relationship with the three attitudes towards infidelity (positive, neutral and negative attitudes towards infidelity). Alternatively, the negative attitudes towards infidelity shared either a weak or a positive correlation with extraversion and emotionality. Then variables were also negatively associated with agreeableness. Neutral attitudes towards infidelity shared a weak and positive correlation with extraversion, but a broader assessment of the correlation between the personality dimensions of the HEXACO model revealed that honesty/humility shared a moderate correlation with emotionality. This kind of relationship was also reported with agreeableness, openness to experience and conscientiousness. Emotionality shared a moderate and negative correlation with extraversion. Comparatively, extraversion had a moderate and positive correlation with openness to experience and conscientiousness. Lastly, conscientiousness shared a positive correlation with openness to experience. All the correlations among the variables are summarised in table 1 below.
Table1. Correlations among variables (Source: Developed by author).
|Negative Attitude towards infidelity||−0.10**||−0.20**||0.08*||−0.15**||0.08*||0.08*||−0.10**||−0.17**||−0.10**||1||2.07||1.20|
|Neutral attitude towards infidelity||0.01||−0.21**||0.01||−0.15**||0.01||0.15**||−0.05||−0.15**||−0.10**||0.61**||1||2.20||1.05|
|Positive attitude towards infidelity||−0.01||−0.20**||−0.01||−0.14**||0.06||0.01||−0.03||−0.11*||−0.14**||0.58**||0.53**||1||2.01||1.04|
The findings highlighted above affirm the research hypothesis, which suggests that personality types affect attitudes towards infidelity. This confirmation stems from the above-mentioned findings, which show that the relationship between HEXACO’s personality types and infidelity had a negative or moderate correlation with all the three attitudes towards infidelity (Positive, neutral and negative attitudes).
The relationship between extraversion, emotionality and attitudes towards infidelity was of particular importance to this study because it shares close links with the attachment theory, which suggests that people’s attitudes towards infidelity are predicated on the level of emotional attachment they learned from childhood. Emotionality and extraversion are two personality types that draw their psychological influences from the attachment theory because they stem from a person’s perceptions of intimacy during childhood. Therefore, the findings of this study affirm the principles of attachment theory.
The negative attitudes towards infidelity, which shared either a weak or a positive correlation with extraversion and emotionality, also drew attention to the attachment theory because people who have strong emotional attachment are likely to have negative views towards infidelity. These findings were also negatively associated with “agreeableness” because such people are deemed less likely to approve of infidelity. The weak and positive correlation between neutral attitudes towards infidelity and extraversion is not surprising because people on the extraversion scale are often emotionally detached from their partners and are likely to be nonchalant about infidelity. A broader assessment of the correlation between personality dimensions of the HEXACO model also did not yield any surprising results because it affirmed the relationship between honesty/humility and emotionality. This kind of relationship was also reported with agreeableness, openness to experience and conscientiousness. The negative correlation between emotionality and extraversion was also expected because, from the researchers’ experience, people who score highly on extraversion rarely show emotions. This view highlights the negative correlation between the two variables.
From the onset of this study, it was established that three main research questions would guide the investigation. The first one was to find out if there is a relationship between personality types and attitudes towards infidelity. This correlation was established in the study because the relationship between HEXACO’s personality types and infidelity were negatively or moderately related to all three attitudes towards infidelity. The second research question sought to find out the relationship between attitudes towards infidelity and demographic variables. The findings showed that these variables did not have a strong effect on perceptions towards infidelity. This finding is also supportive of existing research studies, which have shown that people’s level of cognitive development affects their behaviours, especially when they have multiple sexual partners (Rhode 2016; Quah 2015). The last goal of the study was to explore the relationship between personality types, attitudes towards relationships and level of control among relationships. The findings showed that personality types were correlated with attitudes towards infidelity, but the latter approach was more dependent on personality types as opposed to the attitudes towards infidelity. Stated differently, people’s personality types were more predictive of their control in relationships, but deeper research needs to be conducted in this area.
Conclusion and Recommendations
As highlighted in this paper, infidelity is a major cause of divorce or separation in marriages and one of the most common causes of conflict between people who are in relationships. Many researchers deem infidelity as unfaithfulness among partners and suggest that it occurs when one of the parties does not respect implied or explicit rules regarding emotionally or sexual exclusivity. There is no commonly acceptable lens for evaluating infidelity in marriages because people have varied conceptions of the vice based on their culture, relationship or gender roles. Views on infidelity also vary across different age groups because of the existence of multiple perceptions of sexual relationships in society. Gender, education and religion are also other moderators of people’s perceptions regarding infidelity.
This study assumed an age-based perspective when investigating the attitudes of Millennials towards infidelity. It was domiciled in an institutional setting and 50 respondents (aged between 23 and 38 years) took part in it. The goal of the study was to investigate the relationship between personality and infidelity among the study population. Three main research questions guided the investigation. The first one was to find out if there is a relationship between personality types and attitudes towards infidelity, while the second one was to examine the correlation between attitudes towards infidelity and demographic differences in the target population. The last goal of the study was to explore the relationship between personality types, attitudes towards relationships and level of control between men and women among relationships. Overall, the findings showed that personality types were correlated with attitudes towards infidelity.
Indeed, according to the findings highlighted above, personality types affected attitudes towards infidelity. Extraversion had the strongest relationship with infidelity, but no significant correlation was observed between low tolerance for the vice, conscientiousness and attitudes towards it. Broadly, the findings highlighted in this paper were not surprising because they affirmed conventional beliefs about personality types. Particularly, the negative correlation between emotionality and extraversion was deemed supportive of the researcher’s views of personality types. Thus, the findings deduced in this paper also affirm the research hypothesis, which suggested that personality types affected attitudes towards infidelity. This confirmation stems from the findings highlighted in the fourth chapter, which show that the relationship between HEXACO’s personality types and infidelity were negatively or moderately related with all the three attitudes towards infidelity (positive, neutral and negative attitudes).
One of the limitations of this study was its small sample size (50 respondents). Future researchers should use a larger sample and possibly undertake the investigation in a different institutional or cultural setting. This recommendation stems from the fact that the differences between the current study’s findings and those of past researchers could be socio-cultural. Another limitation of this study is that its findings are indicative. This means that no proper explanations are provided for the observed phenomenon. Therefore, future research should investigate the underlying reasons for the relationship between personality and infidelity observed in this study.
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