Aug 16

Men who are financially dependent on their female partners are more likely to cheat than men who contribute equally to the couple’s bank account, according to a new study based on heterosexual couples between the ages of 18 and 28. But the relationship between male dependency and infidelity disappeared when factors like education, age and relationship satisfaction entered into the mix, suggesting that cheating is a more complex matter than who signs the checks.

The study revealed that men who depend on their wives’ or girlfriends’ incomes are five times more likely to cheat than men who are not dependent. Women who made much less than their husbands were less likely to stray than women who made more. “Men and women react very differently to economic dependency,” said C. Munsch from Cornell University. However, economic disparity is just one of many factors that can play a role in infidelity.

Underreporting by cheating women is a possibility, Munsch said, but “no more so in this study than in other surveys of socially unacceptable behavior”. Women became more and more likely to cheat as their income increased in relation to their male partner’s. Men, on the other hand, were most likely to cheat if they were economically dependent — or if they made much more money than their female partners. Men who made 25 percent more than their partners were the most faithful.

When it came to high earners, who were more likely to cheat, the findings held true even when age, education level, income, religious attendance and relationship satisfaction were taken into account. For both genders, making more money may lead to more opportunities to cheat, Munsch said. High-paying jobs may require more hours away from home or on the road, for example. For low-earning men, though, the correlation between cheating and economic dependence vanished when the same variables were held steady. That means that one or more of the variables is affecting the relationship, Munsch said. For example, lower-earning men may be unhappier in their relationships or feel that their partners’ high wages threaten their masculinity, and that might prompt them to cheat. In this case, the thinking goes, men shore up their ego by cheating. In contrast, low-earning women aren’t fighting any cultural stereotypes and may worry about how they’ll support themselves if they’re caught, so they stay faithful.

“We don’t really know what that causal chain looks like and why it exists,” she said. “So that finding needs to be interpreted with caution.”

(Source: 20100816)