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The Commitment Framework, developed by Johnson (1999), describes commitment in terms of personal, moral, and structural factors. Flores and Campbell (2009) used this framework to ascertain newlywed women’s expectations of infidelity and divorce. Findings indicated that moral commitment was significantly related to women’s expectations of infidelity, but not divorce.
In the current study, we extend these findings by investigating which sub-components of moral commitment (i.e., values about relationship dissolution, moral obligations to a partner or other people, personal consistency values) are related to women’s infidelity expectations. One limitation of Johnson’s moral commitment factor is that it does not fully account for religiosity. Therefore, we additionally explore the influence of religion and religiosity on infidelity expectations.
Our findings indicated that two of Johnson’s moral commitment subscales were significantly related to women’s infidelity expectations. Women were significantly less likely to expect to engage in extramarital sex if they felt morally obligated to a partner or a person outside of the relationship and if they valued consistency. Values about relationship dissolution and degree of religiosity did not predict infidelity expectations. These findings disconfirm our initial prediction that infidelity expectations would be significantly lower for highly religious individuals. Previous research has found that religion helps lower the risk of infidelity (Dollahite & Lambert, 2007); however, it is possible that this effect is meditational. Our findings suggest that moral obligations to a partner or other people (rather than God), as well as consistency values may account for the association between religiosity and infidelity expectations. Another possibility is that religiosity may in fact protect against infidelity, while not significantly impacting expectations of infidelity, which was the outcome variable in our study. Practitioners can help couples safeguard their marriage against infidelity, by bolstering each partner’s feelings of moral commitment toward their spouse and other people, and by strengthening each partner’s consistency values.