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One measure of infidelity is covert illegitimacy, a situation which arises when someone who is presumed to be a child's father (or mother) is in fact not the biological father (or mother).
Frequencies as high as 30% are sometimes assumed in the media, but research Such studies show that covert illegitimacy is in fact less than 10% among the sampled African populations, less than 5% among the sampled Native American and Polynesian populations, less than 2% of the sampled Middle Eastern population, and generally 1–2% among European samples.
Results, however, vary year by year, and also by age-group surveyed.
For example, one study conducted by the University of Washington, Seattle found slightly, or significantly higher rates of infidelity for populations under 35, or older than 60.
One measure of infidelity among couples is the frequency of children secretly conceived with a different partner, leading to "non-paternities".
Such covertly illegitimate children amount to about 1–2% of newborns in studied populations.
On the other hand, when sex ratios are low, promiscuity is less common because women are in demand and since they desire monogamy and commitment, in order for men to remain competitive in the pool of mates, they must respond to these desires.
In marital relationships, exclusivity expectations are commonly assumed although they are not always met.
When they are not met, research has found that psychological damage can occur, including feelings of rage and betrayal, lowering of sexual and personal confidence, and damage to self-image.
Sex ratio theory is a theory that explains the relationship and sexual dynamics within different areas of the world based on the ratio of the number of marriage-aged men to marriage-aged women.
According to this theory, an area has a high sex ratio when there is a higher number of marriage-aged women to marriage-aged men and an area has a low sex ratio when there is more marriage-aged men to marriage-aged women.
Strategic pluralism is a theory that focuses on how environmental factors influence mating strategies.