Communication and parental infidelity: A qualitative analysis of how adult children cope in a topic avoidant environment

Allison Thorson, University of San Francisco


This study investigated adult children’s retrospective accounts of coping with a parent’s infidelity. To understand these experiences, 38 adult children whose parents had engaged in infidelity were interviewed. Results suggested that children placed communicative sanctions on their parent, acted out, and set ground rules for interaction. Last, a segment of participants discussed how communal coping stalled their ability to cope with these events. Combined, these findings highlight the complex nature of the communication surrounding parental infidelity and offer suggestions as to how these findings extend theorizing on topic avoidance.