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Exploring the lived experience of parental infidelity

Salih, L. & Chaudry, S. (2021). Exploring the lived experience of parental infidelity. Journal of Family Studies, 29(1), pp. 407-430. doi: 10.1080/13229400.2021.1956997


The current study explored the lived experience of parental infidelity; how individuals make sense of this experience and what its' implications are. Qualitative data were collected from individual, semi-structured interviews with six adult participants. An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis methodology was used and a critical realist epistemological stance was taken. Analyses revealed findings of four master themes: adultification, challenges in romantic relationships, the psychological experience and the pathway to healing. These master themes were sub-categorized into super-ordinate themes as follows: adultification – becoming an emotional carer and awareness of parental sexuality, challenges in romantic relationships – fear of abandonment and relationship breakdown, intergenerational transmission of infidelity and differentiation, the psychological experience – an everlasting pain, the sense of self and loss: detachment and disconnection, the pathway to healing – restoration through destruction, perspective: intellectualization and understanding and honesty and openness. Theoretical, research and clinical implications alongside limitations and ideas for future research are discussed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Publisher Keywords: Parental infidelity, family dynamics, relationship breakdown, healing, psychological experience
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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