Infidelity affects the relationships for all individuals connected to an affair. This study represents a first step in understanding the ripple effect of this phenomenon by examining how adult children recalled becoming aware of their parents’ infidelity. Participants included 125 individuals, reporting on 149 parental infidelities (24 participants indicated that both their mother and father engaged in infidelity). After sharing the story of how they learned about the infidelities that occurred in their parents’ relationship, discovery stories were coded and analyzed, resulting in a five category typology of methods by which children discovered their parents’ infidelity: family member, explicit, offending parent, incremental, and third party discovery. These findings are compared and contrasted to previous research, and the implications of this study for future research on parental infidelity and theorizing on privacy, shared family identity, and uncertainty are discussed.
Adult Children’s Discovery of Their Parents’ Infidelity
Allison R. Thorson is now at the Communication Studies Department, University of San Francisco.
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Allison R. Thorson; Adult Children’s Discovery of Their Parents’ Infidelity. Qualitative Communication Research 1 May 2013; 2 (1): 61–80. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/qcr.2013.2.1.61
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