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Divorced/Separated Adults More Likely to Commit Adultery

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by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D. & Althea Nagai, Ph.D.

Adults who are currently married are less likely to have committed adultery than adults who are divorced or separated.


According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), adults in always-intact marriages have the lowest adultery rate (10.4 percent), compared to 22.9 percent of married, previously-divorced adults and 32.5 percent of divorced or separated adults.[1]

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Related Insights from Other Studies

Paul Amato and Denise Previti of Pennsylvania State University reported that infidelity was "the most commonly reported cause of divorce."[2] This finding follows up a previous study by Paul Amato and Stacy Rogers of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln that infidelity was one of the "most consistent predictors of divorce," along with jealousy, drug use, drinking, and spending money foolishly.[3]

As the evidence indicates, adults in always-intact marriages are less likely to have committed adultery than adults who have divorced.

Dr. Fagan is senior fellow and director of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) at Family Research Council. Dr. Nagai is a visiting fellow at Family Research Council.


[1] This chart draws on data collected by the General Social Surveys, 1972-2006. From 1972 to 1993, the sample size averaged 1,500 each year. No GSS was conducted in 1979, 1981, or 1992. Since 1994, the GSS has been conducted only in even-numbered years and uses two samples per GSS that total approximately 3,000. In 2006, a third sample was added for a total sample size of 4,510.

[2] Paul R. Amato and Denise Previti, "People's Reasons for Divorcing: Gender, Social Class, the Life Course, and Adjustment," Journal of Family Issues 24 (2003): 602-26.

[3] Paul R. Amato and Stacy J. Rogers, "A Longitudinal Study of Marital Problems and Subsequent Divorce," Journal of Marriage and the Family 59 (1997): 612-24.


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