While the vast majority of people still say that adultery is wrong, studies in the United States suggest that infidelity among married people is increasing, particularly among older men and young couples. Notably, women appear to be closing the adultery gap: younger women appear to be cheating on their spouses nearly as often as men.

An ongoing study called the General Social Survey, sponsored by the National Science Foundation and based at the University of Chicago, shows that in any given year about 10 per cent of married people — 12 per cent of men and 7 per cent of women — say they had sex outside their marriage. However, a detailed analysis of this data by researchers at the University of Washington shows that the lifetime rate of infidelity for men over 60 increased from 20 per cent to 28 per cent between 1991 and 2006. For women over 60, the increase was from 5 per cent to 15 per cent. The researchers also see big changes in relatively new marriages. About 20 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women under 35 say they have ever been unfaithful, up from about 15 and 12 per cent respectively.

Theories about the apparent increase touch on the role of drugs such as Viagra in keeping people sexually active, pornography, and the changing lifestyles of women — particularly those holding down executive jobs. Even for women who stay at home, cellphones, email and instant messaging allow “electronic” affairs. In the latter case, says one expert, the emphasis is less on sex and more on “openness and intimacy and the revelation of secrets”.

Another academic plays down the numbers involved and says what is important is to establish when infidelity occurs — for example, during a troubled time in a marriage or when the relationship seems to be at an end. Other data shows that American couples are spending a little more time together, which is good news. ~ New York Times, Oct 28

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet