Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Deborah P. Welsh

Committee Members

Jenny Macfie, Todd M. Moore


Cheating is a common occurrence in dating relationships. However, less is known about cheating in adolescence, a time when many individuals first experience romantic relationships. An important initial step for research is examining how adolescents define cheating in their romantic relationships. The present study used Thematic Analysis, a qualitative analytic method, to explore adolescents’ definitions of cheating and how these definitions might differ across age and gender. Furthermore, the present study examined patterns that emerged within definitions. Results indicate that definitions of cheating included a range of behaviors, such as engaging in physical activity, romantic/intimate involvement, spending time with, talking to, having romantic feelings for, and thinking about an extradyadic partner. Significantly higher numbers of definitions involving heavier physical behaviors were provided by older adolescents and boys compared to middle adolescents and girls. Furthermore, definitions often involved physical, emotional, and non-physical and non-emotional behaviors. Overall, results indicate that cheating is a complex and multifaceted construct for adolescents.

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