Despite the rise of powerful businesswomen and working moms, traditional gender stereotypes continue to flourish, especially amongst men, according to a recent study by a Cornell grad student. The study –– supported by data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth –– found that a man who is economically dependent on his wife or girlfriend is more likely to cheat on her than a man who is not, in an attempt to regain a sense of power within the relationship.Christin Munsch, grad, presented the results of her research at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Atlanta, Georgia on Aug. 16. The results suggest that many men feel bound by the image of the masculine provider and, in turn, see dependence upon a female partner as a source of shame.“There’s an ideal expectation of how men are supposed to be in society,” Munsch said, noting that even men who remain supportive of a career-oriented wife or girlfriend may experience a societal “backlash” from friends and family questioning his lack of conventional masculine power.“People hold you accountable for not fitting that model … so, you’re going to want to demonstrate that you do belong in this group,” she said, adding that one way to do so is through an affair.Results for women were just the opposite. Women who were economically dependent on a male partner were less likely to be unfaithful, suggesting a reluctance to “bite the hand that feeds,” Munsch said.Higher-earning women need not panic, however. According to Munsch, only five to seven percent of men that earned less money than their significant others cheated, and even when they did, several other factors could be cause for the subject’s behavior. Munsch said that men who are younger, less-educated and not religious were all more likely to cheat.A former social worker, Munsch was inspired to study gender identity and power dynamics in relationships after working at a domestic violence shelter where she was faced with a seemingly endless stream of battered women. She became driven to study and fight the underlying causes.“I felt like we were putting a band-aid on the problem,” she said. As a graduate student – and, potentially, a future professor – she plans to continue fighting the restrictive definitions of male and female roles.
Original Author: Eliza LaJoie