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Monday, August 16, 2010

Do Men Cheat On High earning Woman?

Breadwinners beware? Men dependent on women's income more likely to cheat: study

They may have success in bringing home the bucks, but new research suggests female breadwinners may be less victorious in the love department when it comes to their male partners staying faithful.

The study found that men who are economically dependent on their female partners are more likely to cheat on them. What's more, the results proved to be quite the opposite when gender and breadwinner roles were reversed.

Women dependent on male partners were less likely to cheat, according to research presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta.

Study author Christin Munsch, a sociology PhD candidate at Cornell University, wrote the paper to explore the factors related to infidelity for both sexes. In the paper's abstract, she argues that for men, making less money than their female partner may be a threat to their gender identity "by calling into question the traditional notion of men as breadwinners."

The study relied on the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth which includes questions about work status and experience, income, dating and marital history and sexual behaviour.

The research drew on data from 2002 to 2007 and examines respondents aged 18 to 28 who were married, cohabitating and in the same relationship for more than a year.

There were a total of 1,098 men in the sample, of which 6.73 per cent reported cheating at least once during the six-year period. Of the 1,559 women in the sample, 3.33 per cent reported being unfaithful at least once during the same period.

The study found men who completely relied on their female partner's income were five times more likely to cheat than those who contributed an equal amount of money in the relationship. Men were also more likely to cheat if they made significantly more than their female partners.

Men were least likely to engage in infidelity when their partners made about 75 per cent of their incomes.

As for women, those who were economically dependent on men were less likely to cheat than those who made the same or more than their partners.

"The data seems to show there is a relationship between economic dependency and infidelity for both men and women," said Munsch in an interview from Skaneateles, N.Y.

"For men, it appears like the relationship is prevalent or U-shaped, meaning at one end of the spectrum if you're extremely dependent on your partner, you're more likely to engage in infidelity. At the other end of the spectrum, if your partner is extremely dependent on you, you're also more likely to engage in infidelity."

Munsch cautions that this is what the relationship dynamic is like without controlling for things like highest grade completed, age, income and relationship satisfaction.

"You put some of these other controls in the model, the economic dependency - particularly on the side where men are dependent on their spouses - that relationship is no longer significant."

Munsch said they also don't know whether men who reported cheating and are dependent on their partners are choosing to be financially supported, perhaps because they don't want to work or simply have chosen to stay home.

But why is there a gender divide when it comes to female and male breadwinners and their fidelity?

"I think one of the things is it's not threatening for women to make less than her partner. That's the status quo," Munsch said.

Even if it was threatening to a woman, it's very unlikely that she would compensate by engaging in sex with other people, she noted.

"I think gender identity operates in both sexes, but the way that gender is threatened is different for each, and the way that men and women compensate is different," Munsch said. "It's based on our sort of cultural idea of what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman."

Registered marriage and family therapist Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem said for men, a lot of their sense of personal power comes from their sexual prowess.

Belleghem said she's had many clients where the woman either earns more money than the man in the relationship or inherits it. Since money is power, a woman having it can give the man a sense of powerlessness, she noted.

"She can buy things, she can make decisions about what happens, and for him, how does he get power and feel potent and manly but by doing something that's manly," Belleghem said from Burlington, Ont. "And what's more manly than seducing a woman?"

Belleghem said there are people who would cheat regardless of whether they were with someone who had money. However, in relationships where a man is confident in and happy with himself and the choices he's made - which could include staying home - that helps to strengthen and secure the partnership.

"I've had women who are doctors and lawyers and accountants and executives in corporations with men who got jobs that are far more flexible, and the men are very comfortable with that, and because they make the deal and they share everything it works well," she said.

"It's when the man ... doesn't have a strong sense of himself, and he needs to have some sense of 'I'm powerful over somebody,' they'll go out and seduce somebody."

Munsch said it's important to keep in mind that infidelity is still "a very rare event" and that individuals should take the findings with a grain of salt.

"You can't take any one individual and plug them into an equation and predict their outcome. There's all kinds of standards of error and random life events," she said.

"We just look at general trends. We can't say this one individual is going to cheat or not going to cheat."

The Canadian Press


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