The (un)acceptability of betrayal: A study of college students' evaluations of sexual betrayal by a romantic partner and betrayal of a friend's confidence
Because loyalty and trust are viewed as key requirements for relationships with friends as well as with romantic partners, acts of betrayal, which violate the trust on which these relationships are based, are viewed as serious transgressions. This study focused on 2 commonly occurring kinds of betrayal—betrayal of a friend's confidence despite a promise not to do so and sexual betrayal by a romantic partner despite an agreement to be monogamous. Approximately 261 college students, aged 18 to 23, answered questions concerning the acceptability of betrayal under a variety of different conditions and described their self-restraint, tolerance of deviation, and betrayal behavior. Despite pervasive disapproval of betrayal, the extent of disapproval was a function of the type of betrayal (whether of a romantic partner or a same-sex friend), the justification for the betrayal, the sex of the transgressor, and the characteristics of the respondent. There was greater acceptance of sexual betrayal than betrayal of a friend's confidence, of male than female transgression, and by male than female respondents. These results are largely accounted for by the finding that male respondents gave high ratings of acceptance of sexual betrayal by male transgressors. Acceptance of both forms of betrayal was correlated with lack of self-restraint, tolerance of deviation, and behavioral betrayal.
Journal of Youth and Adolescence
Feldman, S. Shirley; Cauffman, Elizabeth; Jensen, Lene Arnett; and Arnett, Jeffery J., "The (un)acceptability of betrayal: A study of college students' evaluations of sexual betrayal by a romantic partner and betrayal of a friend's confidence" (2000). Psychology. 766.