SOURCE: American Sociological Review, news release, June 1, 2015
MONDAY, June 1, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The more economically dependent they are on their spouses, the more likely it may be that husbands and wives will be unfaithful, a new study suggests.
"You would think that people would not want to 'bite the hand that feeds them' so to speak, but that is not what my research shows," said Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut.
"Instead, the findings indicate people like feeling relatively equal in their relationships. People don't like to feel dependent on another person," she added.
She analyzed data collected from more than 2,750 married Americans, aged 18-32, between 2001 and 2011. In an average year, she found there is a 5 percent chance that women who are entirely economically dependent on their husbands will cheat, and a 15 percent chance that men who are entirely economically dependent on their wives will cheat.
The study appears in the June issue of the journal American Sociological Review.
The threat to their masculinity may explain why men who are entirely economically dependent on their spouse are more likely to cheat than women in the same situation, Munsch said.
"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," she said in a journal news release.
"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," Munsch said. "Thus, engaging in infidelity may be a way of re-establishing threatened masculinity. Simultaneously, infidelity allows threatened men to distance themselves from, and perhaps punish, their higher earning spouses."
The study also found that the larger a wife's share of a couple's income, the less likely she is to cheat on her husband.
But among men, those who bring home more than 70 percent of total income are increasingly likely to cheat on their wives, according to the study.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has more about infidelity.