Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Kristina, C, Gordon

Committee Members

James K. McNulty, Greg L. Stuart


Crisis theories (e.g., Hill, 1942; Karney & Bradbury 1995) suggest that the reciprocal interaction between long-term vulnerabilities and stressors predict relationship outcomes. This model might partially explain an individual’s choice to engage in an extramarital affair. In particular, neuroticism may be an individual vulnerability that can lead to chronic stress, and when this chronic stress is combined with acute stressors, the individual’s resources may be overwhelmed. Thus, the addition of acute stressful events may lead to infidelity as an emotion regulation strategy. The data for this study were drawn from two larger studies assessing newlywed couples’ marital interactions. Participants in Study 1 were 72 couples recruited from northern Ohio. Participants in Study 2 were 135 couples recruited from eastern Tennessee. The measures used were the Life Experiences Survey (Sarason, Johnson, & Siegel, 1978), the Chronic Life Stress questionnaire, created for the two studies described earlier, the Neuroticism subscale of the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck & Eysenck, 1975), and the Quality of Marriage Index (Norton, 1983). The statistics in this study were carried out using multi-level modeling in a three-level model. All analyses were conducted using Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM; Bryk, Raudenbush, & Congdon, 2004). This study’s findings suggest that, whereas neuroticism may not be predictive of infidelity via its relationship with chronic stress, acute stressful events may moderate the relationship between chronic stress and infidelity, suggesting that individuals who are overwhelmed with stress may engage in infidelity as an emotion regulation strategy.

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