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


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

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Reexamining trends in premarital sex in the United States
Volume 38 - Article 27

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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