Intimate relationships : adult attachment, emotion regulation, gender roles, and infidelity
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This study explored individual differences in rates of infidelity by examining the associations among attachment styles, gender roles, emotion regulation strategies, and experiences of infidelity. While both indirect and direct support has been found between several of these variables when assessed separately, no known studies have examined emotion regulation as a partial mediator between attachment styles and infidelity and between gender roles and infidelity. Moreover, infidelity is still a relatively newly studied construct. The current study examined four types of infidelity and is the first known study to examine the construct of anonymous infidelity. Four hundred and six participants were recruited through the Educational Psychology subject pool, Facebook, and local newspaper ads, resulting in a predominantly college student population. A mixed methods approach was utilized and included the collection of quantitative data via a secure, online questionnaire, as well as a qualitative component examining open-ended responses from 50 participants to offer a more complete understanding of the different forms of infidelity. As predicted, path analyses revealed that individuals higher in certain attachment styles engaged in higher levels of infidelity, including emotional, combined, and anonymous infidelity. Femininity was also found to be linked to lower rates of combined infidelity. As predicted, secure attachment, preoccupied attachment, and femininity were negatively linked to the use of suppression, while fearful attachment was positively linked to the use of suppression. Surprisingly, masculinity was negatively linked with the use of suppression. Furthermore, the use of suppression was linked to higher incidents of combined infidelity. However, contrary to predictions, there was no support for emotion regulation serving as a mediator between either attachment styles or gender roles and infidelity. The qualitative analysis uncovered salient themes related to the definition and experience of infidelity, as well as conditions potentially conducive to experiences of infidelity and consequences of infidelity. Anonymous infidelity emerged as an interesting construct within the college culture of dating. These findings are discussed in the context of attachment theory and theories of gender identity, and the implications of the findings for prevention and intervention efforts within clinical practice are described.