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Millennial Men Are Less Likely to Cheat on Their Spouses

The generation that gets married because it wants to, not because it has to, takes the commitment a lot more seriously

The millenial man: He dates while living at home. His mom buys his clothes. He yearns for chin implants. He doesn’t like boobs. And in continued defiance of traditional masculine expectations, he’s also — according to new research from the Institute for Family Studies — less likely to cheat.

That’s right: The millennial man is the butt of many jokes, but he’s also a faithful punchline.

In unsurprising news, men are generally more likely than women to cheat: 20 percent of men report that they’ve had sex with someone other than their spouse while married, according to data from the recent General Social Survey, compared with 13 percent of women. However, says the GSS, this gender gap varies by age: Among married adults aged 18 to 29 (aka millennials), women are slightly more likely than men to be guilty of infidelity (11 percent vs. 10 percent) thus making the millennial man the only generation of man less likely to cheat than his partner. The stats, in fact, quickly reverse among those ages 30 to 34 and grow ever wider in older age groups.

To find out why the millennial man is such a (comparatively) sucker for fidelity, we spoke to Wendy Wang, lead author and director of research at the Institute for Family Studies.

What was the impetus for the study?
The last few months of 2017 and the first few months of 2018 treated us to a whirlwind of news coverage on sexual harassment and abuse, with powerful men from Hollywood to Washington, D.C. falling because of sexual misconduct. When Time magazine picked the silence breakers as the 2017 “Person of the Year,” few people paid attention to the other group of women negatively impacted by the fallout — the spouses of the men who engaged in inappropriate or even criminal (in some cases) sexual behavior. To these women, sexual harassment/abuse also means infidelity. Which is why I decided to look at coverage of sexual harassment from another perspective: From that of the abuser’s spouse.

We also just don’t have a lot of data on sexual harassment: It’s sporadic, and I don’t trust the data. Infidelity data is much more reliable.

Was this a self-reported survey? What was the study’s definition for being unfaithful?
The data used was from a General Social Survey that began collecting data from 1991 and had a strict and traditional definition of infidelity — whether they’ve had sex with someone else other than their spouse while being married. But these days technology has changed things — it’s possible millennial men could be defining being unfaithful differently. They might say they’ve never had sex with anyone else, but they’re sexting, and they wouldn’t consider that as infidelity.

Does this research include same-sex couples?
The data only takes heterosexual couples into consideration because it’s from 1991. In the original wording of the survey, it used the word ‘wife’ and ‘husband.’

Why do you think millennial men are less likely to cheat than older men?
These days, if you look at millennials who are married, they’re more likely to be college educated and have a job. They’re probably more committed to their spouse because they don’t have to get married — most young millennials are living with their partner instead of getting married. If they decide to get married, they treat their commitment to marriage more seriously than their parents. Previously, people got married earlier, but this new generation is a more highly selective group — they have so many options, but when they settle down with one person, they don’t sleep around.

What traits determine which men and which women are more likely to cheat?
When it comes to who is more likely to cheat, men and women share very few traits. For men, growing up in an intact family isn’t linked to a lower chance of cheating. For women, family background is a significant factor that affect whether a woman will cheat, while race, age and educational attainment aren’t relevant factors. The only factor that matters for both men and women is attending religious services. In other words, both men and women who frequently attend religious services like church are less likely to cheat on their spouse.