Steppin' Out: Sexual Jealousy and Infidelity among Unmarried Parents

Heather D. Hill, Northwestern University

There is increasing interest in the relationships of unmarried parents, specifically the factors influencing whether they stay together and ever marry. Trust and sexual fidelity are key factors in gauging the quality and potential longevity of any relationship. This paper uses data from a longitudinal qualitative study of couple dynamics to describe infidelity and sexual mistrust in the relationships of unmarried parents. Interviews conducted over the course of four years offer insight into how couples view sexual fidelity, how the expectations of fidelity differ for men and women, and what course their relationship takes following an incidence of infidelity. Preliminary analysis suggests that these are highly salient issues for parents in this study and that when infidelity occurs it is often at the beginning of a couple’s relationship. This is consistent with an emerging picture of less than fully committed relationships being thrust into “warp speed” by pregnancy.

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Presented in Session 18: Sexual Behavior in the U.S.