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Females are usually bombarded with messages and can pick and choose which messages they respond to, she said.
Al Cooper, a leading expert in the field of Internet sexuality and the author of the book "Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians," said Mileham's research is important in helping to understand this increasingly common phenomenon.
Many reported that what started as innocent, friendly exchanges progressed quickly to strong desires for sexual relationships, she said.
Twenty-six of the 86 study participants went on to meet the person whom they had been engaged in an online relationship with, and of these, all but two ended up having a real-life affair.
"Many of them said their wife was so involved in childrearing that she wasn't interested in having sex." Because there is no touching involved in online chat conversations, married people often rationalize their behavior as harmless fun, Mileham said.
Eighty-three percent of the study's participants said they did not consider themselves to be cheating, and the remaining 17 percent deemed it a "weak" form of infidelity that was easily justifiable, she said.
Research shows that more males than females use chat rooms, said Mileham, who found it difficult to get women to respond to her survey.Other research has shown, however, that most spouses feel as betrayed, angry and hurt by online infidelity as they would if skin-to-skin adultery had taken place, she said.The UF study found an escalating quality to these online contacts."I felt like I've known her in another life." Mileham believes the time has come for the Internet to become as essential a part of pre-marital discussions as is whether or not to have children."To prevent future problems, young couples, as well as long-term committed couples, need to talk about what role the Internet will play in their relationship."- The University of Florida Articles in The Science of Mental Health are written by the originating institution. Newswise maintains a comprehensive database of news releases from top institutions engaged in scientific, medical, liberal arts and business research.