In a recent study of about 300 college students, researchers wanted to find out if individuals are more or less likely to cheat as a function of whether their parents ever knocked boots with someone that wasn’t ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ (while married to mom or dad). Students were asked whether or not they had ever cheated on a romantic partner (30% said yes) as well as whether their mom or dad had ever cheated on their other parent (33% said yes, with dads slightly more likely to perpetrate the infidelity).
Students who had cheated on a partner were twice as likely to have had a parent who cheated compared to those students who had not cheated on a partner (44% vs. 22%). Interestingly, having a cheating parent didn’t affect the way students viewed cheating — they were no more accepting of the idea of cheating in general (at least that’s what they told the researchers)– so it’s not entirely clear exactly how having a parent cheat increases the odds that somebody may one day do the same. It’s most likely that knowing your mom or dad was a cheater somehow influences one of the many proximal predictors of cheating (e.g., feelings of commitment to partners), but future work is needed to clarify the chain of events that links your parents’ cheating ways (or not) to your own.