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The effects of social networks on suspicion and infidelity among married couples in rural Malawi

Shelley Clark, University of Chicago

Extra-marital sexual partnerships (EMSPs) are believed to play a crtical role in transmitting HIV in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Malawi. Yet, the personal and social factors associated with EMSPs remain poorly understood, partly because this issue poses notoriously difficult problems for empirical research. This study attempts to overcome some of these limitations by employing a longitudinal data set to investigate the correlates of both husbands' self-reports about EMSPs and wives' suspicions about such partnerships. Three clear findings emerge from these analyses: that the selection of additional wives is closely linked to extra-marital sex, that socializing with men who have non-maritalpartnerhsips increases the likelihood that husbands have EMSPs, and that both these factors raise wives' suspicion that their husbands have EMSPs. In general, however, wives exhibit only modest accuracy in determining whether their spouses have other sexual partners.

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Presented in Session 33: Negotiation, communication and decision-making within couples in developing countries