Adults Who Rarely or Never Attend Church More Likely to Cheat on Their Spouse: Study

(Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie)The homepage of the Ashley Madison website is displayed on an iPad, in this photo illustration taken in Ottawa, Canada, July 21, 2015.

Adults who didn't grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse, according to a new study.

The study, "Who Cheats More? The Demographics of Infidelity in America," found that the rate of infidelity among those who attend a worship service at least once a week or several times a month or a year is 14 percent, as oppose to 19 percent among those who attend a religious service once a year or less.

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Wikimedia Commons/Leon BrooksA newly married couple exits the church of St. Johns Lutheran.

A person's political identity and family background are also related to whether or not they cheat, said the study released last week by Wendy Wang, director of research at the Institute for Family Studies.

Fifteen percent of adults who grew up with both biological parents have cheated on their spouse before, compared with 18 percent of those who didn't grow up in intact families, pointed out the study.

"Overall, Democrats, adults who didn't grow up in intact families, and those who rarely or never attend religious services are more likely than others to have cheated on their spouse," the study added.

In general, men are more likely than women to cheat, Wang said, noting that 20 percent of men and 13 percent of women reported that they've had sex with someone other than their spouse while married, according to data from the recent General Social Survey.

"Among ever-married adults ages 18 to 29, women are slightly more likely than men to be guilty of infidelity (11% vs. 10%)," Wang, a former senior researcher at Pew Research Center, added in the report. "But this gap quickly reverses among those ages 30 to 34 and grows wider in older age groups. Infidelity for both men and women increases during the middle ages. Women in their 60s report the highest rate of infidelity (16%), but the share goes down sharply among women in their 70s and 80s. By comparison, the infidelity rate among men in their 70s is the highest (26%), and it remains high among men ages 80 and older (24%)."

Last year, Nicholas Wolfinger, a professor of family and consumer sciences and sociology at the University of Utah, underscored the role of the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s as a driving factor in shaping the attitudes of people toward sex. For the generation who came of age during the sexual revolution — people who are now in their 50s and 60s — "it's understandable they are more likely to have sex with someone without their spouses," he said. These people are also more likely to have had more sexual partners in their lifetimes than their older or younger peers.

Wang said her analysis based on GSS data suggests that adults who cheated are much more likely than those who didn't to be divorced or separated.

Another study, titled "Religion and Health: A Synthesis," conducted by Tyler J. VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, noted in December 2016 that religious service attendance is connected to "better health outcomes, including longer life, lower incidence of depression, and less suicide" and "associated with greater marital stability — or more specifically, with a lower likelihood of divorce."