Adultery and the Empty Nest Syndrome Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

adultery and its causes. The writer focuses on the empty nest syndrome and brings various points to the paper about the syndrome and how it may contribute to the affair. In addition the writer provides suggestions on how to avoid empty nest syndrome based adultery.

There were ten sources used to complete this paper.

In recent years the topic of adultery has moved from hushed whispers behind closed doors to the evening news and presidential inquests. Adultery has been splashed on every magazine cover, and discussed on every talk show and is no longer the taboo topic that it used to be. There are many situations that trigger adultery including the empty next syndrome. When children grow up and move away the parents are often left with an almost bottomless pit of loneliness and emptiness. This can cause someone to turn to outside companionship in an effort to fill that void, and the result is an extra marital affair. There are many reasons that an empty next leads to an affair and there are several things that can be done to counteract its temptation.

The effects of the empty next syndrome are far-reaching and varied but before one can begin to understand its ramifications one first has to understand what an empty nest syndrome is. Empty next syndrome is experienced by middle aged parents sometimes when their children move out. After almost two decades of daily interaction with children and daily placing the needs of the children above their own, the sudden void that is left when the children move out on their own can be a bit overwhelming. In a way the healthy family "self-destructs," meaning parents who raise emotionally healthy and independent children witness those children go off into the world to find their own place and pursue their own goals and desires. This is something that children dream and hopes and wait for and parents sometimes dread. When the last box is moved and the house is scarily quiet the empty nest syndrome often begins. It is a syndrome characterized by loneliness and the feeling of emptiness. Knowing the teen won't come barreling through the door at any moment, knowing the friends are not going to be spending the night anymore, and knowing that nobody will be asking for a twenty to get gas because they have a date, is something parents joke about hating, but when it ends, they often feel sad and let down. Spending every single day for two decades considering the needs of the children, working their lives around the children, and putting the children's schedules ahead of their own is a habit that is firmly engrained (Peplau, 1982). Stopping those activities and having the future loom large with no need to put children first can cause depression and sadness for even the most independent of parents. Middle age is a time of redefining goals and remembering all the things that were put aside for the children, but often times the quiet, the extra money and the realization that half of their life is over can cause a middle aged parent to feel scared and alone, even within a marriage. Because society has traditionally placed the responsibility of parenting on the mother, it is often the mother who feels the full effects of the empty nest syndrome but it can also affect fathers.

One of the most frequent manifestations of empty nest syndrome is loneliness (Peplau, 1982). Loneliness can cause many mental health issues that are not directly related to the empty nest syndrome but because the empty nest syndrome causes the loneliness the ramifications of loneliness are important to understand in relation to the empty nest syndrome (Rokach, 1997). "Loneliness has been inversely related to measures of self-esteem and has been demonstrated to be strongly associated with depression, anxiety, and interpersonal hostility and with substance abuse, suicide, and vulnerability to health problems.

According to past studies there is a stigma attached to loneliness that causes the lonely person to be perceived as spoiled or petulant (Rokach, 1997). This perception often causes those who suffer from loneliness to not admit or seek out treatment for their loneliness. The empty nest syndrome can cause intense and deep loneliness and thereby cause the middle aged parent to feel deeply depressed. In an effort to hide their lonely feelings they may turn to an unhealthy relationship to combat the feelings they are experiencing (Rokach, 1997). The extra marital affair triggered by the empty nest syndrome can lead to divorce, which leads to increased loneliness and the cycle continues (Rokach, 1997).

Although loneliness is recognized as a socially prevalent phenomenon that has been described consistently as very painful, distressing, and disturbing, a lonely individual is commonly regarded as "deviant, as someone who is spoiled or generally undesirable"(Rokach, 1997). Consequently, because of the stigma attached to being lonely, most lonely people do not reveal - let alone discuss - their actual thoughts and feelings while they are undergoing the experience. As a result, it is the recollection of what it felt like to be lonely that is shared with others (including researchers) after the experience has passed, been abated, or accepted with resignation" (Rokach, 1997).


In a recent study 633 participants answered questions regarding loneliness. Within the context of their answers their marital status was discovered and the ages of their children. The age range was up to 79 years old so there were many middle-aged parents involved in the study.

When asked if they were lonely at the time of answering the questionnaire, 30% of the participants indicated that they were. A subsequent one- way analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated that the scores of those who were currently lonely differed significantly from those who reported they were not on each of the five factors of the model (Rokach, 1997). A factor analysis of the two groups yielded five factors for the currently lonely group, who reported having experienced loneliness while answering the questionnaire: Social Alienation (16%), Growth and Discovery (8%), Self-Deprecation, which constituted only part of the social inadequacy and alienation factor in the general population model (4%), Self-Alienation (4%), and Emotional Distress (4%)(Rokach, 1997). Factor analysis of the data supplied by those who were not lonely also yielded five factors: Emotional Distress (18%), Social Inadequacy and Isolation (6%), Growth and Discovery (5%), Self-Alienation (4%), and, Interpersonal Isolation (3%)(Rokach, 1997). " In each of these factors empty nest syndrome could be a factor.

Empty nest syndrome hits adults when they are already at a vulnerable time in their life. The realization that their life is easily half way over strikes a chord of fear in even the most accomplished of people. The fact that this realization hits just about the same time that the children are grown and begin to move out adds to the increasing sense of fear, loneliness and confusion. The empty nest occurs when the last child leaves the nest and moves out on his or her own and leaves the parents alone in the house. After many years of focusing on children needs many couples have lost their identity as a couple and feel that they are now married to strangers.

In the study it was determined that spending years raising one's children can have an impact on the decreased social contact outside of child needs. "Four factors emerged for the 31-49 age group: Emotional Distress (21%), Growth and Discovery (10%), Perceived Social Alienation, which was part of Factor 2 in the general population (5%), and Physical Distress, which is composed of statements related mainly to somatic complaints and did not appear in any other subgroup (4%)(Rokach, 1997). Four factors also emerged in the 50-79 age group: Social Inadequacy and Alienation (23%), Interpersonal Isolation (7%), Emotional Distress (6%), and Growth and Discovery (5%)(Rokach, 1997)."

Adultery is much more common than many people believe it to be. "Two of the most reliable studies come to similar conclusions. The Janus Report on Sexual Behavior estimates that more than one-third of men and one-quarter of women admit having had at least one extramarital sexual experience (Adultery Kirby Anderson survey by the National Opinion Research Center (University of Chicago) found lower percentages: 25% of men had been unfaithful and 17% of women. Even when these lower ratios are applied to the current adult population, that means that some 19 million husbands and 12 million wives have had an affair (Adultery Kirby Anderson"

When a parent faces the fact that their children no longer need them, it is not difficult to understand why they have a need to feel needed. When they cross the line into an affair however, because of the empty nest syndrome they now threaten to destroy the relationship they have with their spouse (Jones, 1990). It is important to address the empty nest syndrome feelings of loneliness with counseling and other avenues so that one can avoid the desire or need to seek attention and love from outside the…

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