A new study published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review found both men and women are more likely to cheat on their spouse when they become financially dependent on their significant other.
By analyzing data from 2,750 couples between the ages of 18 to 32 years old, study author Christin Munsch found that there was a 5% chance that women financially dependent on their spouse would cheat at any given time, and a 15% chance that men in a similar position of dependency would stray.
When the household financial contribution evened out between the spouses, however, the odds of committing adultery decreased.
“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. Instead, the findings indicate people like feeling relatively equal in their relationships. People don’t like to feel dependent on another person,” said Munsch, whose work was reported on in Science Daily.
The research also found that when men begin to earn 70% or more of a household income, they once again are more likely to be unfaithful. “These men are aware that their wives are truly dependent and may think that, as a result, their wives will not leave them even if they cheat,” said Munsch.
On the flip side, because women who outearn their husbands challenge the status quo, Munsch says they are more likely to engage in what sociologists call “deviance-neutralizing behaviors,” and, in order to buoy their husband’s masculinity, may be less willing to have an extramarital romance.
The final surprise of the study was finding that financially dependent men are still more likely to cheat than their bread-winning counterparts.