1.1 Background of the Study
Marriage is one of the oldest institutions associated with human society. It is one that has repeatedly been emphasized in every society and constitutes the yardstick for the determination of responsibility in the families. Ofoegbu (2002) defined marriage as an arrangement of social structure which results in the establishment of a relationship of a legal customary or religious bond between a man and his wife for the propagation of the family root through procreation and sharing of various types of other acceptable relationship norms. Marriage of some kind is found virtually in every society. But throughout the centuries, marriage has taken many different forms. Understanding of marriage contrasts greatly from culture to culture, some view the institution as endogamous (men were required to marry within their social group, family, clan or tribe), exogamous (marrying outside the geographical region or social group) or polygamous (allowing people (both men and women) to take more than one partner.
Denga (1990) as cited in Yahaya, Esere, Ogunsanmi & Onye (2008) states that marriage is a partnership contract without escape clauses because it connotes a lifelong arrangement where the couple should permanently survive a multitude of demanding situations such as illness, financial constraints and so on. At any given time in human history, a family comes into existence each time a marriage is successfully contracted. The family is the most important primary group and the smallest social unit in any particular society. Family setting is universal because the human society exists or has existed with some form of family organization. Akubue & Okolo, (2008) referred to family as any group of people who interact and communicate with each other such as husband, wife and children in organizational settings. In the Nigeria context, because of the phenomenon of the extended family system, the family is made up of married people, their off springs and immediate kith and kin and other dependents (Onwuasonya, 2006).
From creation, every society has its traditional practices such as loving one’s spouse, having sex only with ones partner among others, which are pronounced during marriage ceremonies are expected of couples to boost the image and self-esteem of their partners. Some partners deviate from these norms and exhibit it outside their marital homes. This has been a source of marital dispute and instability among couples. The negative outcome of this often times impacts the children psychologically and socially (Fernando, 2013). Contemporary society is bedeviled with marital problems which are not in accordance with the standards, norms and values of traditional society.
Marital fidelity has been known not only to keep a family together but also a generation of individuals that respect the sanctity of marriage. People get married with fidelity in mind but infidelity has always been documented to affect almost 80% of marriage around the world. Infidelity in marriage is a social issue various society, religion and age frown at, and as a result stringent measures are placed to curtail this act. In some societies, the penalty could be as stiff as death. However, infidelity strives leaving the people to wonder why it has taken a form of legacy passed from one generation to the other. (Ejaifo, 2012).
Infidelity in marriage is gradually becoming a norm. Female infidelity is the new trend because extra marital sex by men is socially tolerated and in many respects, even socially rewarded. The prevalence of married men’s participation in extra marital sex in Nigeria is well documented (Karanja, 1987; Onusuloye, Caldwell & Caldwell, 1997; Lawoyin & Larsen, 2002; Mitsunaga, Powell, Antonia, Heard, Nathan, Larsen., 2005). A report out of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University found that for the first time in modern history, women are cheating at nearly the same rate as men. Another study, published in the National Opinion Research center’s 2013 General Social Survey, found that while the percentage of men who admitted to infidelity has held constant over the last two decades, the percentage of wives who reported having affairs rose almost 40 percent.
Before the advent of civilization, married women, no matter the conditions they found themselves never became promiscuous; they remained chaste and faithful to their vows. Cheating among Nigerian women is the new trend, which is abstract and very different to what was in existence two decades ago, when women were faithful, patient and more tolerating (Ejaifo, 2012).
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 among women which was a rare phenomenon has apparently become common place today in the Nigerian society. According to a new report by Durex, a condom manufacturing company in 2012, Nigerian women are ranked the most unfaithful in the world with 62 percent.
Infidelity impacts strongly on the functionality and stability of relationship (Drigotas, Safstrom, & Gontlia, 1999; Whisman, Dixon & Johnson, 1997).
John Kester, a sociologist at the University of Lagos reports that infidelity not only hurts the relationship but has an adverse impact on family life, particularly if children are involved. When a mother is having an affair there is a different reaction in children, this is because the mother is still most often considered the focus of the family and of course when the child learns of an affair, he or she is in danger of testing confidence in the inability of marriage and family.
Research on marital infidelity shows that it leads to marital strife leading to divorce, wife battering, prostitution in urban areas, children born of different fathers and the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (National Aids Control Council (NACC), 2007). Marital infidelity has been associated with increased risk of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety (Cano & O’ Leary, 2000).
Marital Infidelity by impacts negatively on the development in any given area due to its effect on people involved. Resources that are made for the development of the family are deviated to cater for extra-marital affairs and the treatment of HIV/AIDS (Kenya Forum, 2013). Infidelity by women could also enhance the spread of sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as gonorrhea, Chlamydia, syphilis, and many others. Reproductive health of the women are most times usually affected, thus resulting to loss of lives by the women or mothers, thereby making their children become orphans, or even school dropouts, thus becoming touts and juvenile deliquents.
Despite its negative effects on the health of their family members and the society at large, it is worrisome to observe that married women still indulge in extramarital affairs. What could be behind this rise? Could it be that married women are lacking some fundamental needs in family relationship which they seek to satisfy from 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.
1.3 Research Questions
The following research questions were put forward to guide the study:
- What are the patterns of marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L.G.A. of Enugu state?
- What are the attitudes of people towards marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A. of Enugu State?
- What are the factors responsible for marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A. of Enugu State?
- What are the challenges resulting from marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A. of Enugu State?
- What strategies can be put in place to reduce or address the prevalence of marital infidelity among women in Enugu North L.G.A, of Enugu State?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of the study was to ascertain the causes of marital infidelity among women in Enugu North L. G. A. of Enugu State.
The specific objectives of the study were as follows:
- To find out the patterns of marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A, of Enugu State.
- To identify the attitude of people towards marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A of Enugu State.
- To ascertain the factors responsible for marital infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A, of Enugu State.
- To investigate the challenges resulting from infidelity among married women in Enugu North L. G. A of Enugu State.
- To proffer plausible solutions/strategies that will help curtail the prevalence 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.