Genetic influences on female infidelity and number of sexual partners in humans: a linkage and association study of the role of the vasopressin receptor gene (AVPR1A)

Twin Res. 2004 Dec;7(6):649-58. doi: 10.1375/1369052042663922.


In humans, in contrast to animals, the genetic influences on infidelity are unclear. We report here a large study of over 1600 unselected United Kingdom female twin pairs who confidentially reported previous episodes of infidelity and total lifetime number of sexual partners, as well as attitudes towards infidelity. Our findings demonstrate that infidelity and number of sexual partners are both under moderate genetic influence (41% and 38% heritable, respectively) and the genetic correlation between these two traits is strong (47%). Conversely, attitudes towards infidelity are driven by shared and unique environmental, but not genetic, influences. A genome-wide linkage scan identified three suggestive but nonsignificant linkage areas associated with infidelity and number of sexual partners on chromosomes 3, 7 and 20 with a maximum LOD score of 2.46. We were unsuccessful in associating infidelity or number of sexual partners with a locus implicated in other mammals' sexual behavior, the vasopressin receptor gene. Nonetheless, our findings on the heritability of sexual infidelity and number of sexual partners provide support for certain evolutionary theories of human sexual behavior, as well as justifying further genetic and molecular research in this domain.

Publication types

  • Twin Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Extramarital Relations*
  • Female
  • Genetic Linkage
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / genetics*
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Twins / genetics
  • Twins / psychology*
  • United Kingdom


  • Receptors, Vasopressin