American Sociological Association

Her Support, His Support: Money, Masculinity, and Marital Infidelity

Recent years have seen great interest in the relationship between relative earnings and marital outcomes. Using data from the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I examine the effect of relative earnings on infidelity, a marital outcome that has received little attention. Theories of social exchange predict that the greater one’s relative income, the more likely one will be to engage in infidelity. Yet, emerging literature raises questions about the utility of gender-neutral exchange approaches, particularly when men are economically dependent and women are breadwinners. I find that, for men, breadwinning increases infidelity. For women, breadwinning decreases infidelity. I argue that by remaining faithful, breadwinning women neutralize their gender deviance and keep potentially strained relationships intact. I also find that, for both men and women, economic dependency is associated with a higher likelihood of engaging in infidelity; but, the influence of dependency on men’s infidelity is greater than the influence of dependency on women’s infidelity. For economically dependent persons, infidelity may be an attempt to restore relationship equity; however, for men, dependence may be particularly threatening. Infidelity may allow economically dependent men to engage in compensatory behavior while simultaneously distancing themselves from breadwinning spouses.

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Christin L. Munscha





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