The findings of a recent study published by CNN, featured in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, revealed that men who are 100% economically dependent on their spouses were most at risk for cheating, three times more at risk than women married to male breadwinners.
It’s tough to know precisely how many people cheat in their marriages, because many might not admit it in surveys, but researchers estimate that between 20% to 25% of married men and between 10% and 15% of married women have engaged in an extramarital relationship, according to CNN.
While, on average, women who are completely financially dependent on their husbands face about a 5% chance that they will cheat on their husband, there is about a 15% chance that a man married to a female breadwinner will cheat, the study concluded.
“I think it has to do with our cultural notions of what it means to be a man and what … the social expectations are for masculinity,” the study author, Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, told CNN.
Being economically dependent on their wives may threaten their manhood, Munsch said, and having an affair is a way to re-establish their masculinity, even if it’s all done subconsciously.
“There’s plenty of great literature showing how when men in particular undergo gender identity threats, they engage in hypermasculine behaviors,” she said.
“Sex is one of the most sort of gender-typed behaviors. You think of men as … (having) sex on the brain. They can engage in a behavior associated with masculinity.”
The study relied on data from more than 2,750 people who are married, who range in age from 18 to 32 and who were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 2001 through 2011.
Interestingly, female breadwinners whose husbands were 100% financially dependent on them were the least likely group to cheat. On average, they face about a 1.5% chance that they will cheat in an average year, according to the study.
There’s plenty of data suggesting that these women know they are breaking social norms, feel guilty about it at times and do what they can to bolster their husband’s masculinity, such as doing more of the housework even if they are the ones working full-time, said Munsch.
“He already might feel threatened that I’m the breadwinner, I’m certainly not going to make him clean the toilet, too,” she said, giving voice to the possible thought process of a female breadwinner.
Photo Credit: Tribune