A new UT study exploring why some young adults cheat on their partners suggests that the behavior may be a way through which millennials deal with their transition to adulthood.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Sex Research, found that young adults who tended to feel their developmental needs were not being fulfilled by their primary partner participated in infidelity in an attempt to get those needs met elsewhere.
Jerika Norona, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology, is the study’s lead author. Co-authors are Spencer Olmstead, associate professor of child and family studies, and Deborah Welsh, head of the Department of Psychology.
The study included 104 mostly heterosexual young adults who were on average 22 years old. Sixty percent of participants were women and 40 percent were men.
The research found that the developmental theory only partly explains why millennials may be unfaithful. Other factors such as alcohol and opportunity contributed to their infidelity.
The study also examined millennials’ attachment styles.
“Those who identified as avoidantly attached—those who tend to shy away from closeness—participated in infidelity because they felt their partners were not fulfilling their needs for interdependence,” Norona said.
She added, “Those who identified as anxiously attached—those who tend to want closeness yet fear too much of it—participated in infidelity because they felt their partners were not fulfilling their needs for independence.”