Adultery - An Analysis of Love and Betrayal

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 301 Adultery
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      8 boxes: approximately 2.64 linear metres The collection comprises papers, audio-cassette tapes and a small number of acetates.

Scope and Content

Research material includes: structured interview questionnaires; in depth/unstructured interview tapes; in depth/unstructured interview transcripts; group discussion tape recordings; respondents' correspondence, including letters of correspondence between Annette Lawson and newspaper readers ('Sunday Times', 'Guardian', 'Sunday Mirror'), and radio listeners ('Radio London') who responded to her request for information, re: adultery and less specific and miscellaneous correspondence. (All letters have been anonymised).

Quantity of research material: c. 300 questionnaires; 70 audio-cassette tapes; 40 interview transcripts.

Contextual documentation: published description of research methodology; sample; questionnaires; coding schemes; hand-written analyses&statistical footnotes; graphs and tables; interview summaries; communication with informants relating to confidentiality; notes for lectures and conference papers; newspaper cuttings of articles related to the study; miscellaneous notes and correspondence; alphabetical index of books and magazine references; coding references.

Administrative / Biographical History

This sociological study of adultery in the 20th century, by Dr. Annette Lawson, was sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation and the British Academy. The research centred on six hundred mainly white, and mainly middle-class women and men, who were either married or involved in long-term live-in relationships. It used structured questionnaires, individual face-to-face interviews and small group discussions to examine the views, motivations and experiences of respondents involved in, or affected by, extra-marital affairs. The research was written up and published as a book, Annette Lawson, Adultery - An Analysis of Love and Betrayal, (Basic Books, 1988) .

Respondents Correspondence: At the outset of research, Annette Lawson gave several interviews about adultery to various UK newspapers and one radio station. In these contexts, she invited letters of response from members of the public. These letters often took the form of very personal accounts of adulterous affairs and their individual consequences. Those people subsequently sent questionnaires were predominantly drawn from this group. Reference numbers were assigned to the letter writers, so individual questionnaires, or interviews and transcripts may be followed up. All these letters have been anonymised.

Interview Transcripts: in addition to obtaining questionnaires and letters, Annette Lawson conducted both individual interviews and group discussion meetings. Most of these were recorded on audio-tape and later transcribed.

  • Units of observation: individuals/couples/groups.
  • Reference time period covered in project: 1920-1983.
  • Sampling procedures: self-selected via newspaper articles and subsequent snowball sample.

For further background information see Qualidata's online user guide for this collection. This includes, in pdf format, copies of original research and methodological documentation from the study, such as questionnaires, sample profiles, a variables coding list and a summary of the book.


Storage details: the papers and tapes are contained in five large archive boxes (numbered Law:1 to Law:5); nine smaller 'transfer' boxes contain the completed questionnaires (numbered Q.1 to Q.9). The latter are stored in three archive boxes.

  • Box LAW:1 Respondents Correspondence. Letters are sorted by the newspaper responded to and gender of the respondent.
  • Box LAW:2 Interview Transcripts. Each transcript file includes the following information: gender of subject, date of birth of subject, occupation of subject and a note of whether an audio-tape has been deposited.
  • Box LAW:3 Background Material (Contextual Documentation).
  • Box LAW:4 Index Cards.
  • Box LAW:5 Audio Cassette Tapes. Tapes for individual and group discussion interviews, grouped according to whether they are transcribed or un-transcribed.

Questionnaire Boxes:

  • Box Q.1 - Box Q.8 Sequentially numbered questionnaire responses.
  • Box Q.9 Sequentially numbered questionnaire responses for respondents who took part in group discussions.

Access Information

By written application to either the Librarian or Deputy Librarian. A letter of introduction may be required and prospective users will be obliged to sign an undertaking outlining the terms and conditions of access to the research materials.

Acquisition Information

Deposited by primary investigator, Dr. Annette Lawson.


This record was created by Emma J. Barker, Qualidata, UK Data Archive, University of Essex. Information was compiled from both the collection level record for Adultery - An Analysis of Love and Betrayal, in Qualidata's online catalogue, Qualicat, and Qualidata's outline list for the collection.

Other Finding Aids

Qualidata, The Qualitative Data Service, University of Essex, has a detailed archival outline list for the collection.

Conditions Governing Use

No part of the NSPSCA collections may be reproduced, published, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Albert Sloman Library. This may be obtained by application to the Librarian or Deputy Librarian.

Copyright retained by depositor. Quotation Conditions: restricted to 1000 words from each interview in any one publication.


The materials held in the collection contain personal and identifying information. It is essential that the privacy of all respondents is not infringed. No real names or any other identifiable information used in the studies may appear in public and no attempt may be made to contact respondents directly. Use of the materials to derive information relating specifically to an identified individual or to claim to have done so is prohibited.

Appraisal Information

In consultation with academic colleagues, the Albert Sloman Library special collections acquisitions staff evaluate collections by assessing their relevance to the teaching and research interests of the University.

Custodial History

The interview tapes, transcripts, associated correspondence and project documentation from this collection were deposited in 1996 with Qualidata, The Qualitative Data Service, University of Essex. In 2002, Qualidata transferred the collection to The National Social Policy and Social Change Archive (NSPSCA) University of Essex: Albert Sloman Library.


No additional material is expected.

Location of Originals

This collection contains original materials, including the audio recordings of the interviews.


The original research which produced this collection of questionnaires, interviews and associated documentation was written up and published:

Lawson, Annette,Adultery - An Analysis of Love and Betrayal, (Basic Books, 1988) .