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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 parent.
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.
Strategic pluralism is a theory that focuses on how environmental factors influence mating strategies.
According to this theory, when people live within environments that are demanding and stressful, the need for bi-parental care is greater for increasing the survival of offspring.
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.
Interviews with people in non-monogamous relationships since 1972 by the GSS have shown that approximately 12% of men and 7% of women admit to having had an extramarital relationship.
Studies suggest around 30–40% of unmarried relationships and 18–20% of marriages see at least one incident of sexual infidelity.
Rates of infidelity among women are thought to increase with age.
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.