This study aimed to assess the relative importance of demographic, interpersonal, and personality factors in predicting sexual infidelity in heterosexual couples. A total of 506 men (M age = 32.86 years, SD = 10.60) and 412 women (M age = 27.66 years, SD = 8.93), who indicated they were in a monogamous sexual relationship, completed a series of questionnaires, including the Sexual Excitation/Inhibition (SES/SIS) scales and the Mood and Sexuality Questionnaire, and answered questions about, among others, religiosity, education, income, relationship and sexual satisfaction, and sexual compatibility. Almost one-quarter of men (23.2%) and 19.2% of women indicated that they had “cheated” during their current relationship (i.e., engaged in sexual interactions with someone other than their partner that could jeopardize, or hurt, their relationship). Among men, a logistic regression analysis, explaining 17% of the variance, revealed that a higher propensity of sexual excitation (SES) and sexual inhibition due to “the threat of performance concerns” (SIS1), a lower propensity for sexual inhibition due to “the threat of performance consequences” (SIS2), and an increased tendency to engage in regretful sexual behavior during negative affective states were all significant predictors of infidelity. In women, a similar regression analysis explained 21% of the variance in engaging in infidelity. In addition to SIS1 and SIS2, for which the same patterns were found as for men, low relationship happiness and low compatibility in terms of sexual attitudes and values were predictive of infidelity. The findings of this study suggest that, for both men and women, sexual personality characteristics and, for women, relationship factors are more relevant to the prediction of sexual infidelity than demographic variables such as marital status and religiosity.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Multiple regression analyses using continuous variables were also conducted; findings were identical to those based on dichotomous variables.
Allen, E. S., Atkins, D. C., Baucom, D. H., Snyder, D. K., Gordon, K. C., & Glass, S. P. (2005). Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and contextual factors in engaging in and responding to extramarital involvement. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 12, 101–130.
Atkins, D. C., Baucom, D. H., & Jacobson, N. S. (2001). Understanding infidelity: Correlates in a national random sample. Journal of Family Psychology, 15, 735–749.
Bancroft, J., Graham, C. A., Janssen, E., & Sanders, S. (2009). The dual control model: Current status and future directions. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 121–142.
Bancroft, J., & Janssen, E. (2000). The dual control model of male sexual response: A theoretical approach to centrally mediated erectile dysfunction. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 24, 571–579.
Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Carnes, L., Strong, D. A., Goodrich, D., & Long, J. S. (2004). Sexual activity and risk taking in young heterosexual men: The relevance of personality factors. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 181–192.
Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Strong, D., & Vukadinovic, Z. (2003a). The relation between mood and sexuality in gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 231–242.
Bancroft, J., Janssen, E., Strong, D., Vukadinovic, Z., & Long, J. S. (2003b). The relation between mood and sexuality in heterosexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 217–230.
Barta, W. D., & Kiene, S. M. (2005). Motivations for infidelity in heterosexual dating couples: The roles of gender, personality differences, and sociosexual orientation. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 339–360.
Basson, R. (2005). Women’s sexual dysfunction: Revised and expanded definitions. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 172, 1327–1333.
Betzig, L. (1989). Causes of conjugal dissolution: A cross-cultural study. Current Anthropology, 30, 654–676.
Blow, A. J., & Hartnett, K. (2005). Infidelity in committed relationships II: A substantive review. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 31, 217–233.
Burdette, A. M., Ellison, C. G., Sherkat, D. E., & Gore, K. A. (2007). Are there religious variations in marital infidelity? Journal of Family Issues, 28, 1553–1581.
Buss, D. M., & Shackleford, T. K. (1997). Susceptibility to infidelity in the first year of marriage. Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193–221.
Byers, S. E. (2001). Evidence for the importance of relationship satisfaction for women’s sexual functioning. Women & Therapy, 24, 23–26.
Carpenter, D., Janssen, E., Graham, C. A., Vorst, H., & Wicherts, J. (2008). Women’s scores on the Sexual Inhibition/Sexual Excitation Scales (SIS/SES): Gender similarities and differences. Journal of Sex Research, 45, 36–48.
Choi, K. H., Catania, J. A., & Dolcini, M. M. (1994). Extramarital sex and HIV risk behavior among US adults: Results from the National AIDS Behavioral Survey. American Journal of Public Health, 84, 2003–2007.
Dennerstein, L., Lehert, P., Burger, H., & Guthrie, J. (2005). Sexuality. American Journal of Medicine, 118, 59S–63S.
Ellison, C. R. (2001). A research inquiry into some American women’s sexual concerns and problems. Women & Therapy, 24, 147–159.
Fisher, A. D., Corona, C., Bandini, E., Mannucci, E., Lotti, F., Boddi, V., et al. (2009). Psychobiological correlates of extramarital affairs and differences between stable and occasional infidelity among men with sexual dysfunctions. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6, 866–875.
Fox, J. (1991). Regression diagnostics. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Glass, S. P., & Wright, T. L. (1985). Sex differences in type of extramarital involvement and marital dissatisfaction. Sex Roles, 12, 1101–1120.
Glass, S. P., & Wright, T. L. (1992). Justifications for extramarital relationships: The association between attitudes, behaviors, and gender. Journal of Sex Research, 29, 361–387.
Holm, S. (1979). A simple sequentially rejective multiple test procedure. Scandinavian Journal of Statistics, 6, 65–70.
Janssen, E., & Bancroft, J. (2007). The dual-control model: The role of sexual inhibition & excitation in sexual arousal and behavior. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 197–222). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Janssen, E., Macapagal, K., & Mustanski, B. (2010). Individual differences in the effects of mood on sexuality: The Revised Mood and Sexuality Questionnaire (MSQ-R). Manuscript in preparation.
Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002a). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) Scales: I. Measuring sexual inhibition and excitation proneness in men. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 114–126.
Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002b). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual Excitation (SES) Scales: II. Predicting psychophysiological response response patterns. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 127–132.
Janus, S. S., & Janus, C. L. (1993). The Janus report on sexual behavior. New York: Wiley.
Kelly, E. L., & Conley, J. J. (1987). Personality and compatibility: A prospective analysis on marital stability and marital satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 27–40.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Lykins, A., Janssen, E., & Graham, C. (2006). The relationship between negative mood and sexuality in heterosexual college women and men. Journal of Sex Research, 43, 136–143.
Mattingly, B. A., Wilson, K., Clark, E. M., Bequette, A. W., & Weidler, D. J. (2010). Foggy faithfulness: Relationship quality, religiosity, and the perceptions of dating infidelity scale in an adult sample. Journal of Family Issues, 31, 1465–1480.
McAlister, A. R., Pachana, N., & Jackson, C. J. (2005). Predictors of young dating adults’ inclination to engage in extradyadic sexual activities: A multi-perspective study. British Journal of Psychology, 96, 331–350.
McCabe, M. P. (1999). The interrelationship between intimacy, relational functioning, and sexuality among men and women in committed relationships. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 8, 31–38.
McCabe, M. P., & Cobain, M. J. (1998). The impact of individual and relationship factors on sexual dysfunction among males and females. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 13, 131–143.
Milhausen, R. R., Graham, C. A., Sanders, S. A., Yarber, W. L., & Maitland, S. B. (2010). Validation of the sexual excitation/sexual inhibition inventory for women and men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 1091–1104.
Nicholls, L. (2008). Putting The New View classification scheme to an empirical test. Feminism & Psychology, 18, 515–526.
Pealer, L. N., Weiler, R. M., Pigg, R. M., Miller, D., & Dorman, S. M. (2001). The feasibility of a Web-based surveillance system to collect health risk behavior data from college students. Health Education and Behavior, 28, 547–559.
Peterson, Z., Janssen, E., & Heiman, J. (2009). The association between sexual aggression and HIV risk behavior in heterosexual men. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25, 538–556.
Preveti, D., & Amato, P. R. (2004). Is infidelity a cause or consequence of poor marital quality? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 217–230.
Prins, K. S., Buunk, B. P., & VanYperen, N. W. (1993). Equity, normative disapproval, and extramarital relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 10, 39–53.
Saunders, J. M., & Edwards, J. N. (1984). Extramarital sexuality: A predictive model of permissive attitudes. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 46, 825–835.
Smith, T. W. (1994). Attitudes toward sexual permissiveness: Trends, correlates, and behavioral connections. In A. S. Rossi (Ed.), Sexuality across the life course (pp. 63–97). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Spanier, G. B., & Margolis, R. L. (1983). Marital separation and extramarital sexual behavior. Journal of Sex Research, 19, 23–48.
Treas, J., & Giesen, D. (2000). Sexual infidelity among married and cohabitating Americans. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62, 48–60.
Turchik, J. A., & Garske, J. P. (2009). Measurement of sexual risk taking among college students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 936–948.
Turner, C. F., Ku, L., Rogers, S. M., Lindberg, L. D., Pleck, J. H., & Stonenstein, F. L. (1998). Adolescent sexual behavior, drug use, and violence: Increased reporting with computer survey technology. Science, 280, 867–873.
Varjonen, M., Santtila, P., Hoglund, M., Jern, P., Johansson, A., Wager, I., et al. (2007). Genetic and environmental effects on sexual excitation and sexual inhibition in men. Journal of Sex Research, 44, 359–369.
Whisman, M. A., Gordon, K. C., & Chatav, Y. (2007). Predicting sexual infidelity in a population-based sample of married individuals. Journal of Family Psychology, 21, 320–324.
Wiederman, M. W. (1997). Extramarital sex: Prevalence and correlates in a national survey. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 167–174.
Wiggins, J. D., & Lederer, D. A. (1984). Differential antecedents of infidelity in marriage. American Mental Health Counsellors Association Journal, 6, 152–161.
The research reported in this publication was supported, in part, by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (R01 HD043689, Erick Janssen, PI).
About this article
Cite this article
Mark, K.P., Janssen, E. & Milhausen, R.R. Infidelity in Heterosexual Couples: Demographic, Interpersonal, and Personality-Related Predictors of Extradyadic Sex. Arch Sex Behav 40, 971–982 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9771-z
- Extradyadic sex
- Sexual excitation
- Sexual inhibition
- Sexual behavior