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The impact of parents’ extramarital relationships on their adult children McVicar, Jonathan Duncan

Abstract

This study investigated the meaning that adult children of parents who engaged in adultery assign to their experience and to understand how, or if, the knowledge of their parent's infidelity affects them in their own romantic relationships. Much research has been conducted on the marital dyad, yet few if any studies have addressed how infidelity impacts the children. This study is important to the field of counselling and associated professions in both theory and practice as it ties together literature from infidelity, marital conflict, divorce, and adult attachment studies and it informs therapists on possible issues that may arise from being exposed to the knowledge of a parent's infidelity while still a child. This study consisted of seven participants recruited at Memorial University of Newfoundland who participated in two interviews regarding their experiences of their parent's infidelity. Interviews involved reflection of themes from prior discussions, interviewer interpretation and reflection, and the production of participant narratives founded on both interviews. Ten themes were elicited from the data set with seven themes being Essential or core to the experience and three Incidental where not all participants shared the experience yet it was still seen as fundamental to their experiences. Inter-raters and participant feedback were used both in theme validation and in assuring narrative accuracy. Four unique themes were identified in this study: Betrayal / Rejection of the Family; Cognitive Understandings vs. Latent Emotions; Fear of the Future / Marriage; and Honesty and Openness - Forming a New Parent-Child Bond. Implications for future research are also explored.

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