Forty percent of Shanghai's divorced men and women say their ex-spouses' extramarital affairs caused the breakup of their marriages, a recent survey by the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences has found.
The No. 2 reason was financial problems, followed by "irreconcilable differences," said Xu Anqi, the chief researcher for the academy's divorce study. She declined to provide percentages since the Shanghai survey is part of a two-year, nationwide study involving 10 urban and rural areas that is not expected to be finished until December 31.
Xu also declined to disclose the breakdown by gender for the reasons for divorce.
But what has been uncovered so far is tantalizing.
In Shanghai, she said, married women are more likely to engage in extramarital affairs than married men. That's because the city is the most "modern" locale in China and women have more opportunities to "socialize," Xu theorized.
But in Guangzhou in southern China, married men are more likely to have affairs, she said.
Five-hundred divorced Shanghai men and women ranging in age from 29 to 60 with one child in primary or secondary school were polled.
"We have finished investigating seven places, including big cities like Shanghai and Xiamen and rural areas in Guangdong, Hebei and Anhui provinces," Xu said.
Preliminary results suggest that affairs are more likely to occur in developed coastal areas than in the less-developed western inland.
Under a revision of the Marriage Law that the National People's Congress is considering, sexual activity outside of marriage would be considered a "violation" of a spouse's right and the offending partner could be punished "legally."
But, said attorney Liu Chunquan of the Shanghai Hualian Law Firm, extramarital affairs are an ethical and moral issue - not a legal matter.
Xu and sociologist Lin Hua, who is also participating in the study, said 75 percent of Shanghainese strongly disapprove of extramarital sexual activity. That finding is from a 1999 survey in which 800 local couples were questioned. Only 5 percent said there was nothing wrong with affairs.
"Among those 30 or younger, only 7 percent clearly support the idea of extramarital sexual activity if their spouses can't meet their physical needs," Xu said.
Shanghai had the nation's second-highest divorce rate last year - 21 for every 10,000 people, Xu said.