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The words 'It's not you, it's me', may not be the codswallop we all once believed.

A study on 'Betrayals in emerging adults' has reportedly found that a large proportion of people cheat on their partner for developmental reasons.

A mix of surveys and written narratives from 104 cheaters were collated and examined by psychologists at the University of Tennessee.

The participants had an average age of 22, and 59.6 per cent of the group was female.

All of them had cheated within the last six months, but the type of cheating ranged between emotional and sexual, with a great deal of overlap.

For instance; 12.3 per cent of the cheaters reported having no sexual or physical contact when they were unfaithful, and conversely 19.8 said it was purely physical, with no emotional attachment.

The age was chosen in order to focus on how infidelity might just be a part of development, and growing up.

In order to encourage the cheaters to be more honest and frank, they each read a short passage stating how common infidelity is.

The study, published in the Journal of Sex Research was led by Jerika C. Norona from the Department of Psychology at the University of Tennessee.

Why cheat?

Some reasons for cheating included feeling like your partner is holding you back (independence), or feelings you had problems with the relationship itself (interdependence), such as the amount of intimacy being given.

A majority of the participants gave reasons which could be categorised as either independence or interdependence issues.

The study's authors stated that:

Because emerging adulthood is thought to be a time of exploration and experimentation, it is possible that engaging in infidelity is a path through which individuals seek to meet their developmental needs for independence and interdependence and promote their individual development.

No differences were found between men and women, with regard to reasons for cheating.

This doesn't get cheaters off the hook

The study found that developmental factors could only explain some of the motivations for cheating.

40 per cent of the participants also gave other reasons for cheating not related to interdependence or independence development. These included:

  • The opportunity presented itself while under the influence of alcohol.
  • Attraction to another person.
  • The novelty and excitement of cheating itself.

Nevertheless, the authors of the study suggested incorporating 'infidelity' into sexual health education.

Educating emerging adults about their needs for independence and interdependence can increase their awareness of how these needs might manifest in relational decision making.

The awareness of these needs might help emerging adults evaluate whether their behaviours align with their personal growth prior to sliding into action

HT Metro

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