Volume 30 - Article 18 | Pages 535-546

When one spouse has an affair, who is more likely to leave?

By Paula England, Paul D. Allison, Liana C. Sayer

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Date received:24 Jul 2013
Date published:26 Feb 2014
Word count:2613
Keywords:divorce, extramarital sex, gender


Background: We examine whether having an affair around the time a marriage broke up is associated with being the person who wanted the divorce more or the person who was left. We also examine predictors of having an affair around the end of the marriage.

Methods: We use the National Survey of Families and Households, using each ex-spouse’s reports of which spouse wanted the divorce more and whether either was having an affair around the end of the marriage. We combine latent class models with logistic regression, treating either spouse’s report as a fallible indicator of the reality of whether each had an affair and who wanted the divorce more.

Results: We find that a spouse having an affair is more likely to be the one who wanted the divorce more. We find little gender difference in who has affairs preceding divorce.

Conclusions: Results suggest that it is more common to leave because one is having an affair, or to have an affair because one has decided to leave, than it is to discover one’s spouse having an affair and initiate a divorce.

Author's Affiliation

Paula England - New York University, United States of America [Email]
Paul D. Allison - University of Pennsylvania, United States of America [Email]
Liana C. Sayer - University of Maryland, United States of America [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» The sexual double standard and gender differences in attitudes toward casual sex among U.S. university students
Volume 30 - Article 46

» Premarital conceptions, postconception ("shotgun") marriages, and premarital first births: Education gradients in U.S. cohorts of white and black women born 1925-1959
Volume 27 - Article 6

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