Authors of the studies referenced below investigated the attachment styles of partners who engage in infidelity. Attachment refers to the learned patterns of behavior circling around bonding with one’s parents. The results of these studies, and studies reviewed by these authors indicate that avoidant attachment is much higher than secure or anxious attachment styles in those who engage in infidelity. These researchers also found that people with anxious or secure attachment styles are more loyal in comparison with those with avoidant attachment style. People with avoidant attachment style have trouble getting close to, trusting, and relying on others. There is some evidence that people with avoidance attachment style actually seek out relationships that are more likely to be distant and less emotionally demanding. The bonding experience of an individual with avoidant attachment was that his/her needs were not satisfied by the important people in his/her life, during the formative years. It is possible that these individuals seek support and comfort from those who are less intimate and committed in their relationships, finding extra-marital relationships a means to avoid the threat of intimacy in sexual relations. However, there is also some evidence that some unfaithful partners may actually crave and long for the intimacy that was lacking in the relationship with parents and is lacking in the current relationship with the spouse.
Authoritarian parenting practices highly correlate to avoidant attachment patterns. Authoritarian parents resist their children attempts to challenge their power, often exerting coercion to gain control over their children. These parents are less accepting and less responsive. An authoritarian parenting style of either the mother or father significantly predicts the avoidant attachment style positively in both males and females. When it is the father who is the authoritarian parent, and the mother responds by over-indulgence, the bonding pattern that may prevail into adult partner relationships is one of being protected (mothered) by one's partner.
Not surprisingly, the relationships resulting from these bonding patters tend to include poor problem-solving patterns also seen in poorly attached individuals, showing that families which have suffered disloyalty obtained lower scores than typical families in all partner processes, including problem solving and decision making skills, coping skills, consistency, mutual respect, and communication skills. In addition, satisfaction of time spent together, satisfaction with physical appearance, social prestige, physical, and mental health are all lower in partnerships containing both poorly attached partners and those who engage in infidelity.
Overall, the decision-making and problem-solving skills of partners faced with disloyalty are poorer than typical partners. It appears not to be quantity of conflict and problems, but rather the method and process these partners use to manage and solve conflicts and problems, which effect partner functionality. Poor coping skills associated with facing problems and stress, also appears to correlate with higher incidence of infidelity.
Mutual respect appears to be the most important relational aspect in partnerships and correlates with a sense of belonging within the partnership structure. Another area correlating with infidelity is communication skills between partners. This refers to the way in which partners share information, thoughts, and emotions by verbal and non-verbal exchange. And finally, poor mental health appears to predict infidelity with psychosis and neurosis correlating for both sexes, but especially psychosis in men and neurosis in women.
Hatamy, A., Fathi, E., Gorji, Z., Esmaeily, M. (2011). The relationship between parenting styles and attachment styles in men and women with infidelity. Social and Behavioral Sciences 15, 3743-3747.
Hashemi, L. & Didgah, T. (2013). Comparison of family functioning and content in families faced with disloyalty and normal families. Journal of Life Science Biomed. 3(2), 100-106.