1.1 Background of the Study
Marriage is a social institution that has existed for as long as humans have. It defines the roles and responsibilities of spouses in the family and society. Ofoegbu (2002) described marriage as a social, legal, customary, or religious bond between a man and a woman for the purpose of creating and maintaining a family through procreation and mutual support. Different cultures have different types of marriages, such as endogamous, exogamous, or polygamous marriages.
Marriage is a lifelong commitment that requires partners to overcome various challenges, such as illness, financial difficulties, and so on. Marriage also creates a family, which is the smallest and most important social unit in any society. Akubue&Okolo (2008) defined family as a group of people who interact and communicate with each other, such as husband, wife, and children. In Nigeria, the family also includes extended relatives and dependents (Onwuasonya, 2006).
Every society has its own norms and values that guide marital behavior, such as loving one’s spouse, being faithful to one’s partner, and so on. These norms and values are often expressed during marriage ceremonies and are expected to be followed by couples. However, some partners violate these norms and values by engaging in extramarital affairs. This causes marital conflict and instability among couples and affects their children negatively (Fernando, 2013). Marital infidelity is a serious problem that affects many marriages around the world.
Marital fidelity is not only essential for keeping a family together but also for creating a generation of individuals who respect the sanctity of marriage. However, infidelity is very common and seems to be passed on from one generation to the next. (Ejaifo, 2012). Infidelity in marriage is becoming more prevalent, especially among women. This is because men’s extramarital sex is often socially accepted and rewarded. Many studies have documented the high rate of married men’s involvement in extramarital sex in Nigeria (Karanja, 1987; Onusuloye et al., 1997; Lawoyin& Larsen, 2002; Mitsunaga et al., 2005).
Against this background, this study is aimed at investigating the causes of marital infidelity among women in Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu State.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Marital infidelity, once a rare occurrence among women, has now sadly become commonplace in Nigerian society. According to a 2012 report by Durex, a condom manufacturing company, Nigerian women rank as the most unfaithful in the world, with a staggering 62 percent engaging in infidelity.
Infidelity exerts a profound negative impact on the functionality and stability of relationships (Drigotas, Safstrom, & Gontlia, 1999; Whisman, Dixon & Johnson, 1997). John Kester, a sociologist at the University of Lagos, notes that infidelity not only damages relationships but also has detrimental consequences for family life, especially when children are involved. When a mother engages in an affair, it can significantly affect children, as mothers are typically seen as the central figures in the family. The revelation of an affair can erode a child’s confidence in the institution of marriage and family.
Research on marital infidelity reveals a range of adverse outcomes, including increased marital strife leading to divorce, domestic violence, urban prostitution, children born to different fathers, and the transmission of HIV and AIDS (National AIDS Control Council (NACC), 2007). Marital infidelity has also been linked to an elevated risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety (Cano & O’Leary, 2000).
Marital infidelity by women negatively impacts the development of any given area due to its effects on the individuals involved. Resources intended for family development are diverted to accommodate extramarital affairs and the treatment of HIV/AIDS (Kenya Forum, 2013). Female infidelity can also contribute to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, and others. Women’s reproductive health is often compromised, leading to loss of life among mothers and leaving their children as orphans, or even causing school dropouts who may resort to delinquency.
Despite its detrimental effects on the well-being of family members and society as a whole, it is concerning to observe that married women continue to engage in extramarital affairs. What could be driving this increase? Could it be that married women are lacking certain fundamental needs in their family relationships, which they seek to fulfill through external sources?
It is in view of these concerns that this study is being carried out to find out the prevalence and causes of marital infidelity by women in Enugu North Local Government Area of Enugu State.
The study was guided by the following research questions:
- How do married women in Enugu North L.G.A. of Enugu state engage in marital infidelity?
- What are the prevailing views and perceptions of people regarding marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A. of Enugu state?
- What are the underlying causes and motivations for marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A. of Enugu state?
- What are the consequences and implications of marital infidelity for married women, their spouses, and their families in Enugu North L.G.A. of Enugu state?
- What are the possible interventions and recommendations that can be adopted to prevent or reduce the occurrence of marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A. of Enugu state?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of the study was to examine Public Perception of Marital Unfaithfulness Among Married Women
The specific objectives of the study were as follows:
- To describe the patterns and forms of marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A, of Enugu State.
- To assess the attitudes and opinions of people towards marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A of Enugu State.
- To identify and analyze the reasons and influences for marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A, of Enugu State.
- To explore and evaluate the challenges and outcomes of marital infidelity for married women, their spouses, and their families in Enugu North L.G.A of Enugu State.
- To suggest and propose feasible solutions and strategies that will help address the issue of marital infidelity among women in Enugu North L.G.A, of Enugu State.
1.5 Significance of the Study
This study has both practical and theoretical significance.
Practically, the study will help to resuscitate marriage and improve marriage relationship by helping married people to keep to their marital vows and have healthy spousal relationships. It will help to create societal awareness on the damages and harm of infidelity, if not properly curbed.
Theoretically, the findings will give first-hand information to religious leaders, marriage counselors, women organizations on the prevalence and causes of marital infidelity among women, with a view to give proper counseling to spouses either before or during the marriage sessions. With the knowledge, the curriculum planners would include issues that bother on family and procreation into subjects like, Sociology, Civic Education, Sexuality Education and Social Studies. Findings of the study will also add to existing knowledge and literature that have addressed the issue of marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North Local Government Area, Enugu State and Nigeria at large.
1.6 Definition of terms
Attitude: It refers to the way we think or view someone or something.
Couple: This refers to two people who are married, are living together or having an intimate relationship, as socially approved.
Divorce: It is the legal ending of marriage between couples so that husband and wife are free to remarry again.
Early marriage: Early marriage is a marriage that occurs before a person reaches the age of consent (18 years). It is also known as child marriage.
Gender: It refers to culturally and historically specific concepts of femininity and masculinity. It reflects the power relations between men and women; social construction of sex roles between men and women.
Infidelity: It is referred to as cheating or adultery when married. It is a violation of a couple’s assumed or stated contract regarding emotional and or sexual exclusivity.
Marriage: In the context of this study, marriage can be seen as the legalizing of a special relationship between a man and a woman to which the society gives its approval. It places each partner under legal and social obligations to the other and to the society.
Pattern: A particular way in which something is done, or been organized or happens.
Prevalence: It is a term which means being widespread. It tells us about the number of particular events in the community.
Socio-Economic Factors: These are conditions that necessitate and sustain the status of individuals in family and community in terms of formal education, occupation, income, health and cultural freedom.
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