Parental Infidelity and Adult Romantic Attachment: A Phenomenological Investigation of Three Women‘s Experience.
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Parental infidelity is believed to be the leading reason for divorce in North America, and much research has been conducted on how to help the couple in crisis. However, the impact of parental infidelity reaches far beyond just the couple and often times children suffer the consequences as well. Despite this, limited research has been conducted on the long-term impact of parental infidelity on children. The purpose of this thesis is to explore the impact and influence of parental infidelity on the romantic attachment styles of female heterosexual adult children. A hermeneutic (or interpretative) phenomenological approach was used in order to gain a deep understanding of the lives of adult children who share the lived experience of parental infidelity. Three heterosexual females, between the ages of 25 to 35, and who became aware of parental infidelity between the ages of 13 to 19, were recruited to participate in a 60 to 90 minute in-person interview. These interviews were then transcribed into written word and analyzed for themes and patterns. A theme was determined based on its redundancy among the participants‘ narratives. Seven themes emerged: 1) Children are aware, 2) The discovery elicited negative reactions, 3) The infidelity has an impact on the relationship with parents, 4) There are protective factors, 5) The infidelity has an impact on romantic attachment, and 6) Leads to changes in beliefs about relationships. Lastly, there are, 7) Lessons learned. Themes 1 through 6 were congruent with what the current literature stated. Theme 7, along with the desire to be in a romantic relationship, and currently all were, despite the dissolution of their parents‘ marriage, and individual differences between two participants who are related, was unique. The primary therapeutic implication that resulted from this study was to help therapists understand how to intervene and provide the necessary tools to children and adolescents, and their family as a whole, in the hopes of avoiding poor romantic attachment styles developing in their adult life. This study helped fill the gap that currently exist on understanding the impact that parental infidelity has on children.