Study Finds Younger Americans Less Likely to Cheat on Spouse than Older Americans

Since 1991, the General Social Survey has tracked social attitudes covering various moral topics of significance in this country. One specific question included in the survey over the years has been, “Have you ever had sex with someone other than your husband or wife while you were married?” The study results demonstrate many items of note, including the following three takeaways:

First, three out of four Americans continue to believe that cheating on a spouse is wrong. Perhaps surprisingly–given the transformative nature of sexual perspectives in the United States–this statistic has remained fairly steady over 30 years of research.

Second, an impressive gap exists between respondents over 55 and respondents under 55 who admit to having cheated on their spouse. Statistically speaking, individuals over 55 are more likely to cheat on a spouse than individuals under 55.

Finally, according to the study, the rates at which respondents admit to cheating has remained consistent over decades at around 16 percent, meaning when all of the research is taken into account, cheating doesn’t happen more or less frequently today. It simply means Americans over 55 are cheating more often, and Americans under 55 are cheating less often.

General attitude about adultery

Throughout history, adultery has remained one of the few biblical commandments to remain uncontested as wrong by Christians and non-believers alike. According to decades of research, most Americans consistently believe cheating while married to be wrong. The fact it is still called “cheating”—a word with negative connotations—is insightful in this regard.

One of the potential catalysts for the disparity in age and outlook about cheating noted in the recent survey results may be the sexual revolution that took place from the 1960s and the 1970s, which continues to leave a wake of consequences. This revolution no doubt impacted the opinions and attitudes of children and teens during impressionable years, meaning young people who would have been coming of age at a time when sex without limits was celebrated are now the adults who are 50 and older and continuing to act on sexual impulses. Particularly if this generation observed parents who were liberal with their views and actions on the issue of sex, they would have naturally grown up more open to the idea of having sex with people other than or in addition to a spouse.

Further analysis suggests that sociodemographic differences (included but not limited to race, sex, education, etc.) do not provide explanations for the disparity.

Attitude on sexual freedom in America

It should be noted that although Americans still consider adultery to be wrong, the population at large does not appear to have a problem with sex outside of marriage. And in fact, Americans are growing increasingly more comfortable with the idea of sex outside of Holy Matrimony. Especially with a growing emphasis on sexual equality and a greater understanding of sexuality in general, Americans are maintaining less disapproval of extramarital sex as time progresses.

This should provide an interesting and necessary red flag to the church.

Despite all of this, according to the research, young people are not actually having as much sex. Gen Xers remain more likely to have sexual partners outside of marriage than Millennials, and the only generation maintaining a lower rate of sexual activity than today’s 20-to-24-year-olds is the generation born in the 1920s.

Monogamous marriage not going away

Despite a recent surge of interest in open marriages (thanks in part to various television shows promoting polyandry and polygamy), the study would seem to indicate that monogamous marriage is not in danger of disappearing any time soon. Especially if younger Americans remain more faithful to the marriage bed, monogamous marriage statistics should grow stronger.

Looking at the data, it is hopeful that young adults are noting the empty promises and unfulfilled desires of sex without limits. Especially because so many of today’s young adults are the children of parents with failed relationships, multiple divorces, and blended families–and because theirs is a generation that was free and invited to discuss things openly that were once taboo—it remains a possibility that younger generations will be wiser when it comes to cheating on a spouse. Time will tell.

No doubt the General Social Survey will continue to provide interesting and insightful study results in this regard.

~ Christian Patriot Daily


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