Psychological distress: Precursor or consequence of dating infidelity?
Hall, Julie Hasman
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Despite a growing literature on reactions to infidelity, little attention has been devoted to exploring the psychological functioning of unfaithful partners in the aftermath of extradyadic involvement. Thus, the current study examined whether individuals in dating relationships (n = 284) experienced psychological distress after engaging in infidelity. Two competing hypotheses were examined. Consistent with dissonance theory, it was hypothesized that infidelity would longitudinally predict elevated levels of psychological distress. The alternative hypothesis was that psychological distress would predict later extradyadic involvement. In addition, the study investigated the interrelationships among infidelity, psychological distress, and relationship satisfaction over time. Results suggested that although infidelity did not predict subsequent psychological distress, initial levels of psychological distress predicted later infidelity. Thus, it appeared that psychological distress might be a precursor of dating infidelity. Findings are interpreted in light of the broader infidelity literature and avenues for future research are recommended.