Having a partner with a ‘dark personality’ can put you at higher risk of suffering repeated infidelity, a study published in the Acta Psychologica journal reveals.
The concept of a ‘dark personality’ comes from a triad proposed by personality theorists and includes subclinical narcissism (focus on oneself), psychopathy (lack of empathy, remorselessness), and Machiavellianism (cynicism, acting in self-interest). Other traits associated with a dark personality are sadism, selfishness, moral disengagement, and resentment.
Previous research has shown that having a dark personality is related to jealousy, infidelity, violence, short-term relationships, and multiple partners. This can be extremely harmful to people involved in relationships with someone displaying these personality traits, and this study sought to contribute to research that can help create interventions for such people.
Study authors Laura Ferreriros and Mugel Clemente recruited 308 Spanish university students between the ages of 18 and 25 through social media to participate in this study. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire that contained demographic information, questions about dealing with issues in relationships, an established tool to measure dark personality, and an established tool that measures moral disengagement.
When Ferrerriros and Clemente calculated scores on dark personality traits and moral disengagement, the score was below the midpoint for all variables and especially low for psychopathy. Men rated significantly higher than women on all dark personality-related variables except narcissism. Results of statistical analyses revealed that 24.7% of participants had been unfaithful to partners and that of the group that admitted infidelity, 40.8% of them participated in cheating multiple times. Participants who admitted to infidelity scored higher on all dark-personality and moral disengagement constructs measured by this study.
This research sought to further understand how dark personality traits and moral disengagement function in relationships. Significant limitations of this study include that the sample was not very large or representative; it was 78.3% female, comprised of university-affiliated participants, and showed a constricted age range. The authors describe some reliability measures as “excessively low,” which is less than ideal. Future research could focus on addressing some of these limitations and focusing on interventions.
The study, “Dark personality and intimate partner relationships in young adults“, was published online February 24, 2022.