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This study examined correlates of pornography acceptance and use within a normative (nonclinical) population of emerging adults (individuals aged 18—26). Participants included 813 university students (500 women; M age = 20 years) recruited from six college sites across the United States. Participants completed online questionnaires regarding their acceptance and use of pornography, as well as their sexual values and activity, substance use, and family formation values. Results revealed that roughly two thirds (67% ) of young men and one half (49%) of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable, whereas nearly 9 out of 10 (87%) young men and nearly one third (31%) of young women reported using pornography. Results also revealed associations between pornography acceptance and use and emerging adults' risky sexual attitudes and behaviors, substance use patterns, and nonmarital cohabitation values. The discussion considers the implications of pornography use during the transition to adulthood.
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Research
Journal of Adolescent
DOI: 10.1177/0743558407306348
2008; 23; 6 Journal of Adolescent Research
Carolyn McNamara Barry and Stephanie D. Madsen
Jason S. Carroll, Laura M. Padilla-Walker, Larry J. Nelson, Chad D. Olson,
Emerging Adults
Generation XXX: Pornography Acceptance and Use Among
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Generation XXX
Pornography Acceptance and
Use Among Emerging Adults
Jason S. Carroll
Laura M. Padilla-Walker
Larry J. Nelson
Chad D. Olson
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah
Carolyn McNamara Barry
Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore
Stephanie D. Madsen
McDaniel College, Westminster, Maryland
This study examined correlates of pornography acceptance and use within a nor-
mative (nonclinical) population of emerging adults (individuals aged 18–26).
Participants included 813 university students (500 women; M age = 20 years)
recruited from six college sites across the United States. Participants completed
online questionnaires regarding their acceptance and use of pornography, as well
as their sexual values and activity, substance use, and family formation values.
Results revealed that roughly two thirds (67% ) of young men and one half (49%)
of young women agree that viewing pornography is acceptable, whereas nearly 9
out of 10 (87%) young men and nearly one third (31%) of young women reported
using pornography. Results also revealed associations between pornography
acceptance and use and emerging adults’risky sexual attitudes and behaviors, sub-
stance use patterns, and nonmarital cohabitation values. The discussion considers
the implications of pornography use during the transition to adulthood.
Keywords: pornography; emerging adulthood; sexually explicit material;
risk behaviors
P
ornography is becoming a prevalent part of life in the United States and
in many countries around the world. Sex is reported to be the most
Journal of Adolescent
Research
Volume 23 Number 1
January 2008 6-30
© 2008 Sage Publications
10.1177/0743558407306348
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hosted at
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6
Authors’ Note: Address correspondence to Dr. Jason S. Carroll, 2057 Joseph F. Smith Building,
School of Family Life, Brigham Young University, Provo UT 84602; e-mail: jcarroll@byu.edu.
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 7
frequently searched topic on the Internet (Cooper, Delmonico, & Burg,
2000), with pornographic search-engine requests totaling approximately 68
million per day (25% of total search-engine requests). Although exact
figures are difficult to ascertain, recent reports estimate that approximately
40 million adults in the United States regularly visit Internet pornography
sites; in terms of economic impact, the pornography industry annually gen-
erates an estimated $100 billion dollars worldwide, with over $13 billion in
revenue from the United States (Ropelato, 2007).
The proliferation of pornography in the current lives of Americans is
undoubtedly linked to the changing technological context of modern
society. The extensive availability of personal computers (beginning in
1982–1985), the subsequent widespread access to the Internet (beginning in
1995), and the advent of pay-per-view home movies (beginning in 1990–1995)
have changed the technological context for accessing pornography (Buzzell,
2005a). Cooper and colleagues (2000) suggest that these technological
advances have created a “triple-A engine” that fuels an increased trend of
pornography consumption, referring to the increased accessibility (millions
of pornographic websites are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), afford-
ability (competition on the Internet keeps prices low, and there are a host of
ways to get free pornography), and anonymity of sexually explicit materials
(in the privacy of one’s own home, people perceive their accessing of porno-
graphy to be anonymous). These technological changes make questions about
pornography particularly relevant to young people, who are coming of age in
a context where computers and Internet access are ubiquitous in households
and college campuses across America. Emerging adulthood (18–25 years)
may be a time of particular interest because it is a period that is characterized
by exploration in the areas of sexuality, romantic relationships, identity, and
values, as well increased participation in risk behaviors (Arnett, 2006).
Despite the documented increase of pornography during the last decade
and its near-mainstream status in American culture, little attention has been
given to the topic in leading research journals. For example, a targeted data-
base search (using the PsychInfo database) of the top five adolescent journals,
the top five developmental journals, and the top five family journals since 1995
reveals that only one article has been published reporting on a study where
pornography was a primary focus (Cameron et al., 2005) and only two articles
where pornography was investigated as an issue of minor or secondary inter-
est (Wang, Bianchi, & Raley, 2005; Young-Ho, 2001). Given this lack of atten-
tion in leading journals, little is known about the correlates and outcomes of
pornography use in regard to individual development and family formation
patterns. There is a growing literature on pornography in specialty journals
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8 Journal of Adolescent Research
that address sexuality and the clinical treatment of sexual disorders, but
these studies typically utilize nonnormative samples and rarely address core
developmental processes and outcomes.
For this project, pornography was defined as media used or intended to
increase sexual arousal. Such material generally portrays images of nudity and
depictions of sexual behaviors. Researchers have labeled this class of media
using terms such as sexually explicit materials (Goodson, McCormick, & Evans,
2001), erotica (Zillmann, 1994), and online sexual activity (Cooper et al., 2000).
The purpose of this study was to examine levels of pornography use and
acceptance among a normative sample of emerging adults (aged 18 to 26) in
the United States and to compare usage rates across age cohorts within this
developmental period. Analyses were conducted to investigate how patterns of
pornography acceptance and use were associated with emerging adults’ sexual
attitudes and behaviors, substance use patterns, and family formation values.
These dependent variables were selected to investigate issues of importance to
current functioning during emerging adulthood and future family formation.
Pornography Literature
A review of the scholarly research addressing pornography reveals a
diverse literature that spans nearly 50 years. However, much of this litera-
ture is dated, in that it predates the current technological context of pornog-
raphy (Buzzell, 2005a). Also, much of the existing literature is of limited
use for our purposes here because it focuses on issues related to criminol-
ogy and the clinical treatment of sexual compulsions rather than use among
normative populations. Beginning as early as the 1970s and 1980s, schol-
ars have investigated potential links between pornography and criminal
behaviors such as violence and aggression (Allen, D’Alessio, & Brezgel,
1995), sexual offenses (Bauserman, 1996), and child pornography (Quayle
& Taylor, 2003). Although meta-analytic studies have frequently docu-
mented a link between pornography exposure and increased criminal and
deviant behavior (Allen et al., 1995; Oddone-Paolucci, Genuis, & Violato,
2000), inconsistent findings and limitations in the research have created
divergent perspectives and an ongoing debate among scholars about the
effects of pornography exposure on the subsequent behavior of individuals.
Clinical research on pornography has increased in recent years as mental
health professionals across disciplines have reported a marked increase
in the number of clients seeking treatment for sexually addictive prob-
lems related to pornography (Mitchell, Becker-Blease, & Finkelhor, 2005).
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 9
Using clinical samples, this line of research has begun to identify potential links
between pornography compulsion and individual problems (Philaretou,
Mahfouz, & Allen, 2005) and potential couple dynamics (R. M. Bergner &
Bridges, 2002). Although criminal and clinical research studies examine a
number of unique questions, they are typically based on nonnormative
samples with existing disorders and are fairly limited in scope, in that they
address only extremes of pornography addiction, psychopathology, and
criminal behavior. We focus our review here on research that has been done
with normative samples and that addresses correlates and outcomes of
pornography use and acceptance among emerging adults.
A small number of studies have examined pornography use in the general
population (Cooper, Delmonico, Griffin-Shelly, & Mathy, 2004; Cooper et al.,
2000; Cooper, Galbreath, & Becker, 2004; Cooper, Putnam, Planchon, &
Boies, 1999) and have found that pornography use is highest among individ-
uals aged 18–25 (Buzzell, 2005b). Research conducted to date suggests that
approximately 50% of college students report viewing pornography on the
Internet (Boies, 2002; Goodson et al., 2001). Goodson and colleagues (2001)
examined Internet pornography use among 506 college students and found
that 56% of men and 35% of women reported using the Internet for sex-related
information. Boies (2002) examined Internet pornography use among 1,100
university students and found that 72% of men and 24% of women reported
using the Internet to view pornography, with 11% of users viewing sexually
explicit materials once a week or more. Furthermore, those who reported
greater exposure to pornography were more likely to be sexually experienced,
report lower sexual anxiety, and have a higher number of sexual partners
(Morrison, Harriman, Morrison, Bearden, & Ellis, 2004).
In addressing the question of what motivates college students to partici-
pate in pornography use on the Internet, Goodson et al. (2001) found that
30% of users reported accessing sexually explicit materials on the Internet
out of curiosity, 19% to become sexually aroused, and 13% as a means of
enhancing their offline sexual encounters. Boies (2002) found that a major-
ity (82%) reported that viewing sexually explicit material online was sexu-
ally arousing, 40% reported that it satisfied curiosity, and 63% reported that
they learned new sexual techniques. Although there is a disparity between
the primary motivations for pornography use between these two studies, it
is clear that becoming sexually aroused and fulfilling curiosity are salient
motivations for Internet pornography use among emerging adults. Research
also suggests that emerging adults’ use of sexually explicit materials online
is primarily a solitary activity, with 35% of users reporting the use of
Internet pornography while alone, 18% with offline partners, and 15% in a
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10 Journal of Adolescent Research
group context (Goodson et al., 2001). This finding is further supported by
research suggesting that 83% of young men and 55% of young women
reported masturbating while viewing pornography (Boies, 2002).
Although men of all ages overwhelmingly report greater pornography
use than do women, Boies (2002) found that in younger samples, women
viewed pornographic material at a higher proportion to males (3:1) than in
older samples (6:1). Furthermore, Goodson et al. (2001) examined the emo-
tional correlates of pornography use among college students and found few
gender differences in reports of arousal in response to sexually explicit
materials. Goodson and colleagues suggested that the use of sexually
explicit material on the Internet is a valued activity for women and provides
a safe medium through which women can explore their sexuality.
Focus of the Study
Existing studies provide some insight into the pornography patterns of
emerging adults and some of the reasons behind their use of pornography,
but there continue to be unanswered questions regarding how pornography
might be associated with salient developmental features of emerging adult-
hood. For example, there is little research examining correlates of pornog-
raphy use with variables other than sexual attitudes and behaviors, such as
substance use and family formation values. Given that emerging adults
appear to be using pornography as much or more than any other age group
and may also have more aspects of their lives in transition than do other age
groups (Arnett, 2006), it is important to understand how pornography use
during this developmental period might be related to other values and
behaviors that are important for positive development.
This study was designed to examine how pornography use and acceptance
are associated with emerging adults’ sexual attitudes and behaviors, substance
use patterns, and family formation values. Dependent variables were selected
to investigate issues of importance to current functioning during emerging
adulthood and future family formation. For example, family scholars have
found certain premarital behaviors, such as permissive sexuality (Heaton,
2002; Kahn & London, 1991; Larson & Holman, 1994; Teachman, 2003)
and nonmarital cohabitation (DeMaris & Rao, 1992; Dush, Cohan, &
Amato, 2003; Kline et al., 2004), to be associated with less marital stabil-
ity in future marriages. Conversely, sexuality (Lefkowitz & Gillen, 2006)
and substance use patterns (Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006) are more
commonly examined arenas of exploration and experimentation during
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 11
emerging adulthood. This study was designed to address two primary
research questions:
Question 1: What are the levels of acceptance and use of pornography among
emerging adults, and how do these patterns vary across age cohorts within this
developmental period?
Question 2: To what extent are levels of pornography acceptance and use associated
with sexuality, substance use, and family formation patterns in emerging adulthood?
Furthermore, this study was designed to address five limitations that
exist in pornography research to date:
Limitation 1: Findings suggest that the use of one medium of media to access
pornography (i.e., the Internet) is highly correlated with the use of other forms
of pornography use, such as reading pornographic magazines and viewing
videotapes (Goodson et al., 2001) as well as going to offline public venues to
view pornographic entertainment (Boies, 2002). Thus, focusing solely on
Internet pornography likely results in an underestimation of the frequency of
pornography use among emerging adults, especially when considering that ado-
lescents and emerging adults report using offline pornography more frequently
than online pornography (Boies, 2002; Ybarra & Mitchell, 2005). Thus, the cur-
rent study examined overall pornography use across media in an attempt to
obtain a more accurate understanding of the frequency of pornography use.
Limitation 2: Our review of the literature revealed that results are mixed in regard
to the frequency of pornography use (ranging from 40%–90%) and the correlates
of this behavior among emerging adults. These inconsistencies are likely the
result of (a) past researchers not examining men and women separately in their
analyses and (b) their utilizing small samples, typically recruited from a single
university location. In an attempt to obtain a more representative sample, data
from the current study were gathered from six geographically diverse universi-
ties across the United States, and all analyses were separately computed for
emerging adult men and women.
Limitation 3: Scholars examining correlates of pornography use have rarely con-
trolled for other variables that may be affecting the relationship between pornog-
raphy use and other behaviors, thereby posing a threat to the validity of the
findings and to the inferences made from them. For example, although scholars
have explored links between religiosity and pornography use (Goodson,
McCormick, & Evans, 2000), studies rarely control for religiosity when investi-
gating the affects of pornography. Without these control variables, scholars
cannot rule out plausible alternative explanations for their findings. Controlled
analyses are particularly needed when examining links between pornography
use and risk behavior or sexual activity because the observed relation may be
due to a third variable, such as impulsivity (see Peter & Valkenburg, 2006) or
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12 Journal of Adolescent Research
relationship status (A. J. Bergner, Bergner, & Hesson-Mcinnis, 2003). To minimize
the likelihood of identifying spurious correlations, all analyses in this study con-
trolled for the religiosity, impulsivity, age, and relationship status of the participants.
Limitation 4: Much of the existing literature on pornography use is limited in value
because the researchers measured usage patterns with personally defined
response codes (e.g., never, seldom, sometimes, often) rather than temporally
based response codes that provide actual frequencies of use (e.g., weekly, every
other day, daily). To better ascertain frequency patterns, this study measured
pornography use with a temporally based response pattern.
Limitation 5: Finally, many pornography studies only look at patterns of pornogra-
phy use but do not simultaneously investigate rates of acceptance of pornogra-
phy, whether personally used or not. Studying values related to pornography
may be a critical addition to the literature, in that it allows scholars to look at
how widely accepted pornography use is among certain developmental cohorts
and to identify the degree to which this behavior is condoned or condemned by
one’s peers. The study of values related to pornography may be particularly ben-
eficial in the study of couple formation patterns where men’s and women’s usage
patterns may differ, but acceptance or nonacceptance of a partner’s behavior may
have implications for relationship dynamics and quality.
Method
Participants
The participants for this study were selected from an ongoing study of
emerging adults and their parents, entitled Project READY (Researching
Emerging Adults’ Developmental Years). This project is a collaborative mul-
tisite study that is being conducted by a consortium of developmental and
family scholars. The sample that was utilized in the current study consisted
of 813 undergraduate and graduate students (500 women, 313 men) recruited
from six college sites across the country: a small private liberal arts college
and a medium-sized religious university on the East Coast, two large
Midwestern public universities, a large religious university in the intermoun-
tain West, and a large public university on the West Coast. Participants ranged
in age from 18 to 26, with the mean age being 20.0 years (SD = 1.84).
Overall, 79% of the participants were European American, 4% were African
American, 9% were Asian American, 3% were Latino American, and 5%
indicated that they were “mixed/biracial” or of an other ethnicity. Further-
more, 96% reported that their sexual preference was heterosexual, 2%
reported a homosexual preference, and another 2% reported a bisexual pref-
erence. Study participants reported a variety of religious affiliations: Roman
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 13
Catholic, 35.1%; conservative Christian, 16.6%; liberal Christian, 16.0%;
Latter-day Saint (Mormon), 2.9%; other faiths (e.g., Jewish, Greek Orthodox,
Muslim), 3.2%; atheist/agnostic, 7.9%; and no affiliation, 9.5%. All of the par-
ticipants were unmarried (6.3% cohabiting with a partner in an intimate rela-
tionship), and 90% reported living outside their parents’ home in an
apartment, house, or dormitory.
Procedure
Participants completed the Project READY questionnaire via the Internet
(see http://www.projectready.net). The use of an online data collection proto-
col facilitated unified data collection across multiple university sites and
allowed for the survey to be administered to emerging adults and their parents,
who were living in separate locations throughout the country (parent data were
not used in the current study). Participants were recruited through faculty
announcement of the study in undergraduate and graduate courses. Professors
at the various universities were provided with a handout to give to their
students that had a brief explanation of the study, as well as directions for
accessing the online survey. Interested students then accessed the study Web
site with a location-specific recruitment code. Informed consent was obtained
online, and only after consent was given could the participants begin the ques-
tionnaires. Each participant was asked to complete a survey battery of 448
items. Sections of the survey addressed areas such as background information,
family-of-origin experiences, self-perceptions, personality traits, values, risk
behaviors, dating behaviors, prosocial behaviors, and religiosity. The survey
also assessed attitudes and behaviors pertaining to couple formation, such as
cohabitation, sexuality, and interpersonal competencies. Most participants
were offered course credit or extra credit for their participation. In some cases
(approximately 5%), participants were offered small monetary compensation
(i.e., $10–$20 gift certificates) for their participation.
Measures
For the current study, we examined associations between emerging
adults’ reports of their acceptance and use of pornography and their atti-
tudes and behaviors related to potential risk behaviors (i.e., sexuality and
substance use) and family formation values.
Pornography acceptance and use. Two items were used to measure par-
ticipants’ levels of acceptance and use of pornography. Acceptance of
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14 Journal of Adolescent Research
pornography was measured by asking respondents how much they agreed
with the statement “Viewing pornographic material (such as magazines,
movies, and/or Internet sites) is an acceptable way to express one’s sexual-
ity.” Responses were recorded on a 6-point scale ranging from 1 (very
strongly disagree) to 6 (very strongly agree). To assess pornography use,
emerging adults were asked the question, “How frequently do you view
pornographic material (such as magazines, movies, and/or Internet sites)?”
Responses for this item were measured on a 6-point scale ranging from 0
to 5 (0 = none,1 = once a month or less,2 = 2 or 3 days a month,3 = 1 or
2 days a week,4 = 3 to 5 days a week,5 = everyday or almost everyday).
Risk behaviors. Emerging adults’ sexual permissiveness was measured
using a two-item scale assessing how much participants agreed or disagreed
with sexual value statements on a 6-point scale ranging from 1 (very
strongly disagree) to 6 (very strongly agree). These statements related to
their personal sexual ethics regarding premarital sexual relations (“It is all
right for a man and woman to have sexual relations before marriage”) and
uncommitted sexual relations (“It is all right for two people to get together
for sex and not necessarily expect anything further”). Preliminary analyses
found that this scale had strong internal consistency (emerging adult men,
α=.84; emerging adult women, α=.84) and that, on average, emerging
adult men (M = 3.92, SD = 1.36) reported higher levels of sexual permis-
siveness than did emerging adult women (M = 3.51, SD = 1.35).
Participants’ agreement with extramarital sexuality was assessed with a sin-
gle item (“It is all right for a married person to have sexual relations with
someone other than his/her spouse”): emerging adult men, M = 1.36, SD =
.78; emerging adult women, M = 1.22, SD = .67. Two items were used to
assess participants’ sexual behavior. Open-response questions asked emerg-
ing adults to report the number of sexual partners that they have had in their
lifetime (emerging adult men, M = 3.10, SD = 6.17; emerging adult women,
M = 2.51, SD = 4.01) and within the last 12 months (emerging adult men,
M = 1.19, SD = 1.70; emerging adult women, M = .97, SD = 1.29).
Emerging adults reported their frequency of substance use using a five-
item scale assessing alcohol consumption, binge drinking (i.e., drinking 4
or 5 drinks or more in one occasion), cigarette smoking, marijuana use, and
their use of other illegal drugs (e.g., cocaine, heroin, crystal meth, mush-
rooms). Responses were reported using a 6-point scale ranging from 0 to 5
(0 = none,1 = once a month or less,2 = 2 or 3 days a month,3 = 1 or 2
days a week,4 = 3 to 5 days a week,5 = everyday or almost everyday).
Preliminary analyses found that this scale had good internal consistency
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 15
(emerging adult men, α=.76; emerging adult women, α=.76) and that, on
average, emerging adult men (M = 1.19, SD = .96) reported higher levels of
substance use than did emerging adult women (M = .86, SD = .76).
Family formation values. Emerging adults’ values regarding family forma-
tion practices were assessed in the areas of nonmarital cohabitation and child-
bearing, marriage ideals, and views of parenting. Participants’ endorsement of
cohabitation was measured using a six-item scale measured on a 6-point scale
ranging from 1 (very strongly disagree) to 6 (very strongly agree). Value state-
ments included in this scale included “It is all right for a couple to live together
without planning to get married,” “It is all right for an unmarried couple to live
together as long as they have plans to marry,” “Living together before marriage
will improve a couple’s chances of remaining happily married,” “A couple will
likely be happier in their marriage if they live together first,” “It is a good idea
for a couple to live together before getting married as a way of ‘trying out’ their
relationship,” and “Living together first is a good way of testing how workable
a couple’s marriage would be.” Preliminary analyses found that this scale had
very strong internal consistency (emerging adult men, α=.94; emerging adult
women, α=.93) and that, on average, emerging adult men (M = 3.75, SD =
1.21) reported higher levels of endorsement of cohabitation than did emerging
adult women (M = 3.39, SD = 1.17). Participant’s agreement with out-of-wed-
lock childbirth was assessed with a single item (“I would personally consider
having a child out-of-wedlock”) measured on a 6-point scale ranging from 1
(very strongly disagree) to 6 (very strongly agree). Preliminary analyses found
that, on average, emerging adult men (M = 2.24, SD = 1.23) and women (M =
2.13, SD = 1.20) hold similar views on this approach to family formation.
Carroll and colleagues (2007) have proposed that emerging adults develop
a marital horizon, or marriage philosophy, that comprises at least three inter-
connected factors—marital importance, desired marital timing, and criteria for
marriage readiness. Three items measured on a 6-point scale ranging from 1
(very strongly disagree) to 6 (very strongly agree) were used to measure par-
ticipants’ ideals for marriage in these three domains. One measured partici-
pants’ agreement to value statements regarding marital importance (“Being
married is a very important goal for me”), emerging adult men, M = 3.77,
SD = 1.31; emerging adult women, M = 3.44, SD = 1.35. The next assessed
participant’s desired age for marriage (“What is the ideal age (in years) for an
individual to get married?”), emerging adult men, M = 25.4 years old, SD =
2.12; emerging adult women, M = 24.8 years old, SD = 1.83. A third item
assessed desires for spousal independence in marital finances (“In marriage,
it is a good idea for each spouse to maintain control over his/her personal
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16 Journal of Adolescent Research
finances”), emerging adult men, M = 3.78, SD = 1.36; emerging adult
women, M = 3.65, SD = 1.35. A three-item scale using the agreement
responses mentioned previously was used to measure participants’ degree
of child-centeredness, or positive appraisal of becoming a parent in the
future. The three items were “Having children is a very important goal for
me,” “Being a father and raising children is one of the most fulfilling expe-
riences a man can have,” and “Being a mother and raising children is one
of the most fulfilling experiences a woman can have.” Preliminary analyses
found that this scale had strong internal consistency (emerging adult men,
α=.86; emerging adult women, α=.84) and that, on average, emerging
adult men (M = 4.83, SD = 1.08) and emerging adult women (M = 4.89,
SD = .91) had similarly high levels of child-centeredness.
Results
The analyses for this study were conducted in a sequential format to test
the two research questions detailed previously. Because of historical gender
differences in the several variables measured—including average median
age at marriage, sexual behaviors, and substance use—analyses were run
separately for emerging adult men and women.
Question 1: What are the levels of acceptance and use of pornography among
emerging adults, and how do these patterns vary across age cohorts within this
developmental period?
Frequency levels of emerging adults’ acceptance and use of pornography
were calculated for men and women (see Table 1). These analyses revealed
that emerging adult men accepted and used pornography more frequently
than did emerging adult women, although these differences were more pro-
nounced in usage patterns. Two thirds (66.5%) of emerging adult men
reported that they agreed, at some level, that viewing pornography is
acceptable, whereas emerging adult women were evenly split (48.7% agree,
51.3% disagree) on whether viewing pornography was an acceptable way
to express one’s sexuality. With regard to actual usage rates of pornography,
87% of emerging adult men reported using pornography at some level, with
approximately one fifth reporting daily or every-other-day use (i.e., 3 to 5
times a week) and nearly half (48.4%) reporting a weekly or more frequent
use pattern. Women’s usage patterns were markedly different, with about
one third (31%) reporting pornography use at some level. However, the
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majority of emerging adult women using pornography reported a once a
month or less pattern of usage, and only 3.2% of women reported a use pat-
tern of weekly or more. An intriguing pattern surfaced when the data on
pornography acceptance were transposed on emerging adults’ reported
usage rates of pornography. For emerging adult men, approximately 1 in 5
reported that they used pornography but did not believe that it is an accept-
able behavior, whereas among emerging adult women, approximately 1 in
5 reported that pornography is acceptable, but they did not personally use
pornography.
In the absence of longitudinal data, the best way to ascertain if pornogra-
phy usage and acceptance rates vary across emerging adulthood is to compare
usage rates across age cohorts within the developmental period. As such, our
sample was divided into three age cohorts (18- and 19-year-olds, n = 397; 20-
to 22-year-olds, n = 337; and 23- to 26-year-olds, n = 79), and MANCOVA
(multiple analysis of covariance) comparisons were computed on emerging
adult men’s and women’s usage and acceptance rates of pornography. Because
previous research has found that risk behaviors typically peak at about age 22
(Arnett, 2006; Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006), we included a measure of binge
drinking (i.e., the item from the Substance Use Scale) in these age compar-
isons to investigate if pornography use followed a similar pattern.
These analyses revealed that for emerging adult men, there were significant
differences between the age cohorts on binge-drinking rates but not on
pornography use or acceptance (MANCOVA: emerging adult men, F = 3.50,
df = 3, p < .05). In particular, emerging adult men followed the expected
pattern, with men aged 23 to 26 reporting significantly less (p < .01) binge
drinking (M = 1.21, SD = 1.26) than their younger counterparts (18- and 19-
year-olds, M = 1.84, SD = 1.47; 20- to 22-year-olds, M = 1.86, SD = 1.42).
Although slight declines in pornography use and acceptance were found for
men aged 23 to 26, these differences did not reach statistical significance.
Emerging adult women followed a similar pattern (MANCOVA: emerging
adult women, F = 5.08, df = 3, p < .01), with older emerging adults reporting
significantly less (p < .01) binge drinking behavior (23- to 26-year-olds, M =
1.07, SD = 1.10) than younger women (18- and 19-year-olds, M = 1.37, SD =
1.31; 20- to 22-year-olds, M = 1.32, SD = 1.28); however, pornography use
patterns remained steady across the three groups, and a significant increase
(p < .01) in the acceptance of pornography was identified between women
aged 23 to 26 (M = 3.63, SD = 1.20) and women aged 18 or 19 (M = 3.05,
SD = 1.29). It is interesting to note that although gender differences in pornog-
raphy use remain consistent across the three age cohorts, increases in the
acceptance of pornography among older emerging adult women place men’s
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18 Journal of Adolescent Research
and women’s acceptance of pornography at the same level by the time that
they reach their mid twenties.
Question 2: To what extent are levels of pornography acceptance and use associated with
sexuality, substance use, and family formation patterns in emerging adulthood?
Three types of analyses were used to investigate the study’s second
research question. First, partial correlations were calculated to determine
the direction and strength of the associations between the pornography
items and the other study variables. Next, to examine specifically how
pornography use was related to salient features of emerging adulthood, we
ran a series of group comparison analyses. For emerging adult men, we ran
a series of MANCOVAs with five pornography use groups: Group A, never
use (none); Group B, seldom use (once a month or less); Group C, monthly
use (2 or 3 days a month); Group D, weekly use (1 or 2 days a week); and
Group E, daily use (3 to 5 days a week or everyday or almost everyday).
Because of the relatively low usage rates among women, we ran ANOVA
Table 1
Acceptance and Use of Pornography Among
Emerging Adults (in Percentages)
Emerging Adult Emerging Adult
Men (n = 313) Women (n = 500)
Pornography acceptance
a
Very strongly disagree 8.0 14.5
Strongly disagree 7.4 11.3
Disagree 18.0 25.5
Agree 45.3 39.0
Strongly agree 9.6 6.3
Very strongly agree 11.6 3.4
Pornography use
b
None 13.9 69.0
Once a month or less 16.8 20.7
2 or 3 days a month 21.0 7.1
1 or 2 days a week 27.1 2.2
3 to 5 days a week 16.1 .8
Everyday or almost every day 5.2 .2
a. “Viewing pornographic material (such as magazines, movies, and/or Internet sites) is an
acceptable way to express one’s sexuality.
b. “During the past 12 months, on how many days did you view pornographic material (such
as magazines, movies, and/or Internet sites)?”
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 19
comparisons between two groups: nonusers (Group A) and users (Group B)
of pornography. We also calculated subgroup frequencies on the behavior
items to further examine patterns of sexuality and substance use. Preliminary
analyses revealed that age, current dating status, religiosity, and impulsivity
were all correlated to some degree with pornography use and acceptance,
with religiosity and impulsivity related to men’s pornography patterns and
with religiosity, current dating status, and age related to women’s pornog-
raphy patterns (see Table 2). To increase confidence that the associations
identified between study variables were related to study hypotheses and not
due to spurious correlations, we included items measuring age, current dat-
ing status, religiosity, and impulsivity as control variables in all partial cor-
relation and group comparison analyses.
Risk behaviors. As noted in Table 3, pornography use was found to be
significantly related with emerging adult men’s sexual values and behav-
iors. Partial correlation analyses revealed a small but significant connection
between pornography use and number of lifetime sexual partners among
emerging adult men and their acceptance of extramarital sexual behavior.
Also, the more that men accepted and used pornography, the more likely
they were to be accepting of premarital and casual sexual behavior. Group
comparisons revealed that the most distinctive sexual values were found
Table 2
Correlations Between Pornography Variables and Control Variables
Emerging Adult Emerging Adult
Men (n = 313) Women (n = 500)
Pornography Pornography Pornography Pornography
Control Variables acceptance use acceptance use
Age .02 .06 .13
**
.08
Current dating status
a
.01 –.02 .11
**
.18
***
Religiosity
b
–.39
***
–.30
***
–.44
***
–.20
***
Impulsivity
c
.22
***
–.19
***
.06 .04
a. Current dating status: 1 = not dating at all,2 = casual/occasional dating,3 = have a
boy/girlfriend (in an exclusive relationship),4 = engaged, or committed to marry.
b. Religiosity (“My religious faith is extremely important to me”): 1 = very strongly disagree,
2 = strongly disagree,3 = disagree,4 = agree,5 = strongly agree,6 = very strongly disagree.
c. Impulsivity (two-item scale; emerging adult men, α=.77; emerging adult women, α=.68;
“Fight with others/lose temper,” “Easily irritated or mad”): 1 = never,2 = seldom,3 = some-
times,4 = often,5 = very often.
**
p < .01.
***
p < .001.
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20
Table 3
Correlations and Group Comparisons Between Pornography Variables and Emerging Adult Factors
Emerging Adult Men (n = 313) Emerging Adult Women (n = 500)
Pornography Use Pornography Use
None Seldom Monthly Weekly Daily No Yes
Accept (r) Use (r)(= a) (= b) (= c) (= d) (= e) Accept (r) Use (r)(= a) (= b)
Sexual values
Sexual permissiveness .61*** .34*** 2.64
bcde
3.59
ade
3.92
ae
4.23
ab
4.68
abc
.55*** .15** 3.23
b
4.12
a
Extramarital sexuality .08 .15** 1.07
e
1.27 1.34 1.50 1.45
a
.13** .05 1.20 1.24
Sexual behavior: With how many partners have you had sexual intercourse?
“With how many . . . .09 .11* 1.30
e
2.37
e
4.25 1.96 5.28
ab
.19*** .17*** 1.89
b
3.75
a
None 58.1% 28.8 23.1 41.7 22.7 46.4 22.9
3 or more partners 9.3% 25.0 33.4 25.0 40.9 26.9 46.4
With how many partners have you had sexual intercourse in the past 12 months?
“With how many . . . .02 .06 .63
ce
1.04 1.14 1.26 .15 .22*** .09* .85
b
1.22
a
None 67.4% 30.8 27.7 46.4 28.8 50.6 24.2
3 or more partners 2.3% 9.6 15.4 9.5 22.7 7.7 11.1
Substance use
Substance Use Scale .15* .20*** .35
bcde
1.14
a
1.42
a
1.30
a
1.38
a
.28*** .16*** .77
b
1.08
a
Alcohol use
None 51.2% 19.2 3.1 13.1 7.6 22.4 8.5
Weekly or more 18.6% 46.2 69.2 60.7 60.6 38.8 47.1
Binge drinking
None 69.8% 26.9 15.4 27.4 22.7 46.2 24.8
Weekly or more 11.6% 32.7 49.2 46.4 51.5 22.9 29.4
Note: Controlling for age, dating status, religiosity, and impulsivity. Alphabetic superscripts indicate significant group mean differences at the p < .05 level.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p < .001.
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 21
among the emerging adult men who never used pornography and reported
markedly more conservative sexual values than their pornography using
peers and among men who used pornography on a daily basis who reported
the most liberal sexual values (MANCOVA: emerging adult men, F = 5.99,
df = 5, p < .001). The daily users had, on average, nearly 5 times more life-
time sexual partners than nonusers had, and the majority of nonusers
reported that they had not had sexual intercourse. Among emerging adult
women, pornography acceptance and use were found to be related to sexual
values and sexual behaviors, with pornography acceptance being a stronger
correlate of these variables than actual pornography use. Significant group
differences were found on all sexual variables (p < .001) except agreement
with extramarital sexual behavior. Emerging adult women who accepted
and used pornography were found to have significantly higher levels of
acceptance of casual sexual behavior and to report higher numbers of
sexual partners within the last 12 months and across their lifetimes.
As noted in Table 3, pornography use and acceptance were also found to
be significantly correlated with emerging adults’ substance use patterns.
Specifically, pornography acceptance and use were correlated significantly
with men’s substance use patterns. Comparisons of subgroup frequencies
revealed that emerging adult men who did not use pornography had
markedly lower levels of drinking and binge drinking than did their coun-
terparts, who used pornography on a regular basis. Similar but more pro-
nounced patterns were found among emerging adult women, among whom,
pornography use and acceptance were found to be significantly correlated
with higher substance use. Group comparisons documented that these dif-
ferences were statistically significant (p < .01) between emerging adult
women who used pornography and those who did not.
Family formation values. As noted in Table 4, pornography acceptance
was found to be significantly related to young people’s values and approaches
to family formation; however, pornography use patterns had little correlation
with these variables. Emerging adult men and women who were more
accepting of pornography were also more accepting of nonmarital cohabi-
tation, but only women who accepted pornography were found to be more
likely to consider having a child out of wedlock. No correlations were
found between pornography acceptance and emerging adult men’s and
women’s goals for marriage. However, acceptance of pornography was
found to be significantly correlated with desires for later marriage, finan-
cial independence between spouses within marriage, and lower levels of
child-centeredness for emerging adult men and women. Similar to the
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Table 4
Correlations and Group Comparisons Between Pornography Variables and Family Formation Values
Emerging Adult Men (n = 313) Emerging Adult Women (n = 500)
Pornography Use Pornography Use
None Seldom Monthly Weekly Daily No Yes
Accept (r) Use (r)(= a) (= b) (= c) (= d) (= e) Accept (r) Use (r)(= a) (= b)
Nonmarital cohabitation and childbearing
Endorsement of .41*** .11 3.11
de
3.45
d
3.70 4.13
ab
4.08
a
.37*** .04 3.24
b
3.71
a
cohabitation
Out-of-wedlock childbirth .07 .06 1.82
e
2.27 2.19 2.33 2.45
a
.21*** .05 1.99
b
2.42
a
Marriage and parenting
“Being married is a very .06 –.02 5.08 4.76 4.86 4.52 4.49 –.08 –.03 4.96 4.93
important goal for me.
Ideal age for marriage .15** .09 24.8
e
25.0 25.3 26.0
a
25.7 .13** .08 24.7
b
25.1
a
(in years)
Spousal independence .17*** .03 3.58 3.51 3.70 3.76 3.66 .14*** .01 3.73 3.81
Child-centeredness –.15** .01 5.01 4.86 4.87 4.84 4.81 –.13** –.06 4.97
b
4.72
a
Note: Controlling for age, dating status, religiosity, and impulsivity. Alphabetic superscripts indicate significant group mean differences at the
p < .05 level.
**p < .01. ***p < .001.
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 23
analyses involving the sexuality and substance use variables, group com-
parison analyses revealed that much of the variance in these correlations
was attributed to the more traditional views of nonpornography using men
(MANCOVA: F = 6.20, df = 6, p < .001) and women (four of six compar-
isons, p < .001) and their peers who used pornography.
Discussion
The current study examined levels of pornography use and acceptance
among emerging adults in the United States. Comparisons were made
between early (18- and 19-year-olds), middle (20- to 22-year-olds), and late
emerging adults (23- to 26-year-olds). Additional analyses were conducted
to see if patterns of pornography acceptance and use were correlated with
sexual attitudes and behaviors, substance use patterns, and family forma-
tion values among emerging adults. Results suggest that pornography is a
prominent feature of the current emerging adulthood culture. Pornography
use was particularly prevalent among emerging adult men, with nearly half
reporting that they viewed pornography at least weekly and about 1 in 5
reporting that they used pornography daily or every other day. In contrast,
emerging adult women were less accepting and much less likely to use
pornography on a frequent basis. Given the lack of attention to pornogra-
phy habits in the leading developmental, adolescent, and family journals,
these findings raise a number of questions for scholars about how inten-
tional exposure to sexually explicit material may influence the develop-
mental patterns of the rising generation in the United States. We organize
our discussion of these findings around gender differences in pornography
patterns, perspectives on pornography as young people transition in and out
of emerging adulthood, and considerations of how pornography may influ-
ence couple formation during and after emerging adulthood.
Gender Differences in Pornography Patterns
Perhaps the most notable finding of this study was the marked difference
in pornography use and acceptance among emerging adult men and emerg-
ing adult women in our sample. These results suggest that pornography use
is as common as drinking is among college-age men. It also appears that a
sizable number of emerging adult men “binge” on pornography, with a sim-
ilar frequency and intensity that define binge drinking on American college
campuses. In fact, the comparison between pornography use and binge
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24 Journal of Adolescent Research
drinking may be justified, in that pornography use was found to be moder-
ately correlated with emerging adult men’s frequency of alcohol consump-
tion and their rates of binge drinking, even after controlling for a number of
variables that may be thought to contribute to both of these behaviors (e.g.,
impulsivity, religiosity). Emerging adult women were split when it came to
the topic of pornography. About half of emerging adult women were
accepting of pornography use among their peers, but only about 1 in 10
viewed pornography with any regularity. It may be possible that the mea-
sures that were utilized in this study influenced this finding, in that they
assessed visual media of pornography (Internet, magazines, movies) rather
than narrative-based erotica, which may be more appealing to women.
However, even with this consideration, the differences between pornogra-
phy use and acceptance among emerging adult men and women form a
notable finding that requires exploration in future research.
Another notable finding of this study was that the acceptance of pornog-
raphy was as strongly correlated with emerging adults’ attitudes and behav-
iors as their actual pornography use was (or more so). This finding suggests
that pornography should be regarded as much as a value stance or a per-
sonal sexual ethic as it is a behavioral pattern. This may be a particularly
salient finding for emerging adult women who report higher levels of
acceptance than actual use of pornography. Furthermore, pornography
acceptance among women was a stronger correlate with permissive sexual-
ity, alcohol use, binge drinking, and cigarette smoking than was actual
pornography use. For men, the acceptance of pornography was more highly
correlated with their sexual attitudes and family formation values than was
pornography use. These findings highlight that scholars need to define
pornography in terms of both values and behavior.
Transitions in and out of Emerging Adulthood
In addition to examining the overall usage rates of pornography among
emerging adults, subanalyses were also run to determine if rates of pornog-
raphy use differed significantly for early, middle, and late emerging adults.
These analyses identified that the rates of pornography use were relatively
stable across emerging adulthood. These patterns also suggest that pornog-
raphy patterns are established during adolescence or are rapidly developed
in emerging adulthood. The much lower levels of reported pornography use
among adolescents (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2005) suggest that the latter expla-
nation is more plausible, but future research is needed to confirm this pos-
sibility. The age pattern found in the current study is notable because it
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 25
varies from the identified pattern of exploratory behaviors during emerging
adulthood, which finds that for the majority of the population, most of these
types of behaviors peak at about age 22 and then decrease from that time for-
ward (Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006). Thus, pornography use may be largely a
personal pattern that is not as contingent on the peer-centered experimental
context of emerging adulthood as drinking may be. This possibility is sup-
ported by research suggesting that pornography use is largely a solitary activ-
ity (Boies, 2002; Goodson et al., 2001), and it suggests that the solitary nature
of pornography use may distinguish it from other exploratory behaviors that
are common during emerging adulthood. The solitary pattern of pornography
use may contribute to its being more frequently carried over into young adult-
hood than peer-centered experimental behaviors.
A better understanding of how the transition from emerging adulthood
to young adult life influences and is influenced by pornography will help
clarify these processes. A key question in this line of research will be to
identify whether pornography acceptance and use rates remain similar as
emerging adults get older or if they change as young people transition into
adult roles and relationships. For example, our data set included responses
on the pornography acceptance item from 280 fathers and 343 mothers of
the emerging adults sampled for this study. A post hoc frequency analysis
of these responses revealed that only 36.6% of fathers and 20.4% of moth-
ers agreed at some level that pornography was an acceptable expression of
one’s sexuality. By way of comparison, emerging adults were much more
accepting of pornography than their parents were, with daughters even
reporting more acceptance (48.7%) than their fathers. Longitudinal
research is needed to determine if this pattern reflects a life course trajec-
tory, with acceptance of pornography decreasing as individuals move into
adulthood, or if this pattern reflects a generational difference, with the ris-
ing generation being more socialized than previous generations toward
pornography across the life span.
Another question that arises from the pornography usage rates identified in
this study is whether there is a link between the high level of habitual use
among men across emerging adulthood and the development of addictive and
compulsive patterns associated with pornography use. At least two alternative
trajectories seem possible. First, it is possible that the high rates of pornogra-
phy use among the emerging adult men identified in this study simply
reflect the explorative nature of emerging adulthood and that, similar to
rates of binge drinking and other risk behaviors that peak during the early
twenties (Schulenberg & Zarrett, 2006), pornography rates will taper off and
have few lasting negative effects on development. A second possibility is that
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26 Journal of Adolescent Research
for some young men, habitual use of pornography during adolescence and
emerging adulthood will act as the genesis for future problematic behav-
iors. Data on binge drinking reflect this type of pattern. Although the major-
ity of young people who engage in binge drinking during late adolescence
and emerging adulthood do not continue these patterns into adult life, there
is a notable minority (6%–8%) that engage in frequent binge drinking dur-
ing college (Brower, 2002), which may linger through life. Cooper and col-
leagues (Cooper, Delmonico, et al., 2004; Cooper, Galbreath, et al., 2004)
have developed a typology of pornography use that demonstrates how it
might affect individuals differently. Specifically, they identify three groups
of users of online sexual activity: Recreational users are those who access
online sexual material out of curiosity or for entertainment purposes and are
not typically seen as having problems associated with their online sexual
behavior. At-risk users are those who, if it were not for the availability of
the Internet, may never have developed a problem with online sexuality.
Finally, sexual compulsive users who, because of a propensity for patho-
logical sexual expression, use the Internet as one forum for their sexual
activities. Therefore, there may be a population of predisposed individu-
als for whom early exposure to pornography can lead to compulsive
sexual problems. Thus, future studies should examine links between
common use during adolescence and emerging adulthood and later adult
patterns, including sexual compulsion.
Pornography and Couple Formation
Two findings from this study are of note for research on couple forma-
tion in emerging adulthood and later adult life. First, pornography was not
significantly associated with young people’s goals for marriage and parent-
hood. Although pornography users were found to be more accepting of
nonmarital cohabitation than nonpornography users were, both groups
shared a mutually high regard for eventually getting married and becoming
parents. Therefore, pornography use and acceptance should be interpreted
within a framework that examines how these attitudes and behaviors influ-
ence young people’s marital competence and family capacities (Carroll,
Badger, & Yang, 2006). However, it should also be noted that pornography
use was linked to permissive sexuality and nonmarital cohabitation, two
variables that have been found to be associated with less marital stability in
future marriages (Dush, Cohan & Amato, 2003; Heaton, 2002; Kline et al.,
2004). Furthermore, although young people who accept and use pornogra-
phy identify marriage and parenthood as important life goals, it is not
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Carroll et al. / Pornography and Emerging Adulthood 27
known if pornography influences how young people define marriage. Men
who used pornography and women who accepted pornography were sig-
nificantly more likely to accept a married person’s having sexual relations
with someone other than his or her spouse than were their peers who did
not use or accept pornography. It may be that this finding merely reflects
the fact that sexually liberal people who endorse nonmarital sexual activity
are more likely to use pornography as emerging adults. However, future
research should examine if pornography influences people’s views of the
ethos of monogamy, which accompanies traditional views of marriage.
A second finding of note relating to couple formation patterns was the
identified pattern that roughly half of emerging adult women expressed a
disapproving view of pornography whereas nearly 9 out of 10 emerging
adult men reported using pornography to some degree, with nearly half
viewing pornography on a weekly or more frequent basis. This disparity
raises a number of questions about couple formation patterns between men
and women. What happens to men’s and women’s pornography patterns
when they enter serious romantic relationships? Do men decrease or stop
their pornography use when they enter a relationship? Do men continue to
use pornography but do so covertly in an effort to hide their behaviors from
an unaccepting partner? Do women start or increase their use when they
become romantically involved with a man who uses pornography? Does a
new pattern of pornography use arise during the coupling process that shifts
from individual use to couple use? The answers to these developmental
questions are not well understood in the pornography literature to date. In
likelihood, their answers differ from couple to couple, and the patterns that
emerge likely influence future couple dynamics and outcomes.
Limitations and Future Directions
Despite addressing a number of limitations in existing pornography
research, this study has a number of restrictions that should be considered
in interpreting these results. First, the sample consists of only college
students, who may not be representative of the larger population. Indeed,
Cooper et al. (2000) identified college students as a group that is at risk for
cybersex compulsion. However, it is not clear whether this is due to their
age or status as students. Future work is needed using noncollege partici-
pants, to be confident in the generalizability of these findings. Second,
despite the fact that the item assessing pornography use had a temporally
based response code, future research would benefit from more detailed
measurement of pornography use, assessing it separately across different
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28 Journal of Adolescent Research
contexts (e.g., erotica, Internet pornography use, videos) to determine how
different media of pornography might be differentially related to outcomes.
Third, research would benefit from a more detailed examination of accep-
tance of pornography use. The item in the current study assessed general
acceptance, but it is possible that acceptance would vary if participants
responded to a temporally based response code (e.g., “Daily pornography
use is an acceptable way to express one’s sexuality”). This is especially
salient for women, who may perceive their own minimal use of pornogra-
phy to be acceptable but who may perceive men’s much higher use as being
less acceptable, particularly, use that is considered habitual. It will also be
important for future research to examine acceptance in various life periods
and among relationship statuses (e.g., dating, engaged, married) because
acceptance of pornography may vary among single, committed, and mar-
ried individuals. Finally, because of the cross-sectional nature of the current
data, causal inferences could not be made. The age-related trends in the cur-
rent study certainly justify the need for longitudinal data, following indi-
viduals from adolescence to emerging adulthood to later adult life. Despite
these limitations, the current study provides a more complete understand-
ing of pornography use among a normative (nonclinical) population of
emerging adult college students and raises a number of important questions
for future research, including the importance of examining the impact of
pornography use and acceptance on current functioning during adolescence
and emerging adulthood and on future couple and family formation.
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Jason S. Carroll, PhD, is an associate professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham
Young University.
Laura M. Padilla-Walker, PhD, is an assistant professor in the School of Family Life at
Brigham Young University.
Larry J. Nelson, PhD, is an associate professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham
Young University.
Chad D. Olson, BS, is a graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at
Brigham Young University.
Carolyn McNamara Barry, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology at Loyola College
in Maryland.
Stephanie D. Madsen, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at McDaniel College.
distribution.
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at BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIV on January 9, 2008 http://jar.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... The period of late adolescence to emerging adulthood (17-25 years) is a significant stage of development, often characterised by exploration in the areas of sexuality, romantic relationships, identity and values, as well increased participation in risky behaviours (Arnett, 2006;Sussman & Arnett, 2014). One aspect of sexual behaviour that has been less well explored is that of problematic Internet pornography (PIP) use, despite IP viewing being both widespread and increasingly normative (Brown et al., 2017;Carroll et al., 2008;Häggström-Nordin et al., 2005;Hald, 2006;Lim et al., 2017). In studies of self-perceived effects of pornography consumption, both men and women have reported small to moderate positive effects and few, if any negative effects (Hald & Malamuth, 2008;McKee, 2008;Miller et al., 2018). ...
... Previous research on the consequences of IP viewing draws inconsistent conclusions, with studies finding both negative and positive outcomes (see Weitzer, 2011;. Detrimental outcomes include being more critical of one's own or a partner's body (Albright, 2008;Tylka, 2015), participating in more unsafe sexual and non-sexual behaviours (Carroll et al., 2008;Harkness et al., 2015;Svedin et al., 2011;Wright & Arroyo, 2013;Wright & Randall, 2012), and lower relationship or sexual satisfaction (Maddox et al., 2011;Manning, 2006;Stewart & Szymanski, 2012). However, some studies suggest IP viewing can enhance self-perceived sexual competence and education (Hald & Malamuth, 2008) and encourage more open-mindedness and comfort with one's sexuality (Innala, 2007;Watson & Smith, 2012;Weinberg et al., 2010). ...
... Earlier age of initial exposure and gender have both previously been shown to influence cognitions toward and approval of IP (Brown et al., 2017;Carroll et al., 2008;Hald, 2006). In a sample of heterosexual Danish young adults, Hald (2006) found that compared to women, men use pornography significantly more often, are first exposed at a significantly younger age and spend significantly more time per week watching pornography. ...
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Introduction Characterised by both exploration and engagement in risky behaviours, late adolescence and emerging adulthood are periods of particular vulnerability to dysregulated behaviours. One such behaviour less well explored is that of problematic Internet pornography (IP) viewing, despite viewing explicit online material becoming increasingly pervasive and normative. Method In 2020, 385 (270 females, 110 males) Australian undergraduate students (aged 17–25 years) completed an online survey assessing exposure to IP, affective and cognitive responses to IP, IP-related sexual beliefs, self-assessed problematic IP viewing and key psychological vulnerability factors. Correlational and regression analyses were utilised to assess the relationships between variables. Results Most male (57.3%) and female (33.7%) respondents recalled their first exposure to IP as occurring between 12 and 14 years; however, 28.2% of males and 23.7% females recalled their exposure as occurring between 9 and 11 years, and a small proportion were exposed even earlier. Higher IP viewing frequency, positive affective responses to IP at current exposure, elevated sexual impulsivity and the endorsement of IP-related sexual beliefs were all found to be associated with self-assessed problematic IP viewing. Conclusions Findings suggest that both person and situational factors may contribute to problematic IP viewing patterns. IP viewing may also be shaping the sexual beliefs and behaviours of some viewers. Policy Implications There is little consensus on the factors that may lead IP viewing to become problematic, which limits the ability of clinicians to identify more susceptible individuals. These findings suggest that in addition to dysregulation factors such as sexual impulsivity, dissociation and depression, affective responses to IP and IP-related beliefs may also be important to consider when assessing for whom IP viewing may become problematic.
... This includes content in which women are shown being choked, gagged, slapped, ejaculated on, and verbally (and sometimes physically) abused as well as being tricked, manipulated, or coerced into sex (Bridges et al., 2010;Sun et al., 2016;Wright, Sun, et al., 2015). Despite its depiction of the acceptability of a variety of aggressive and coercive sexual behaviors (Crabbe & Corlett, 2011;Gridley, 2016), IP viewing is largely normative among young adults (Carroll et al., 2008;Häggström-Nordin et al., 2006;Wright, 2013b). However, research examining the potential effects of early and ongoing exposure to the conduct depicted in heterosexual IP is still limited, and it remains unclear whether IP viewing is associated with a general tendency to subscribe to more stereotypical gendered beliefs and to endorse sexually coercive and aggressive beliefs and behaviors that are congruent with such content (Smith & Dines, 2012;Weitzer, 2011). ...
... Media effects theories also recognize the importance of social context, such as through an individual's perception of the dominant norms of the groups to which they belong . Thus, young adults may find IP content enticing because the social context in which they operate has endorsed IP viewing as normal and beneficial (Carroll et al., 2008;Häggström-Nordin et al., 2006;Horvath et al., 2013). It is therefore germane to explore whether there are particular personal and/or environmental factors that are associated with both a greater vulnerability to IP viewing becoming problematic and the adoption of IP-congruent gendered attitudes and beliefs that endorse sexually aggressive or coercive behavior. ...
... Reported rates of IP viewing are around 87% to 100% among young men and 15% to 82% among young women (Carroll et al., 2008;Chi et al., 2012;Lim et al., 2017). However, IP viewing does not affect all individuals in the same way, and only a minority of individuals use IP in a problematic way (Grubbs et al., 2019;Harper & Hodgins, 2016;Twohig et al., 2009). ...
... 1 Typically, men have more favorable attitudes toward pornography and view it more frequently than women. [2][3] Among young adults, 87% of men and 31% of women reported using pornography, but 67% of men and 49% of women rated pornography use as acceptable. 2 Interestingly, these figures suggest that men are more likely to use pornography than think it is acceptable, whereas women are more likely to say it's acceptable without using it. ...
... [2][3] Among young adults, 87% of men and 31% of women reported using pornography, but 67% of men and 49% of women rated pornography use as acceptable. 2 Interestingly, these figures suggest that men are more likely to use pornography than think it is acceptable, whereas women are more likely to say it's acceptable without using it. ...
Article
Background Pornography has become mainstream in society, including in the state of Utah, which is a highly religious, conservative state. Aim The purpose of this study is to gather basic descriptive norms for pornography use in the state of Utah (given its unique religious profile), establish clinical cutoffs based on frequency and duration of pornography consumption, and begin to establish a clinical picture of problematic pornography use in a regionally representative sample. Methods We recruited a representative sample of 892 Utahns via CloudResearch.com. Participants completed the following measures: Consumption of Pornography – General (COPS); Problematic Pornography Use Scale; Clear Lake Addiction to Pornography Scale; The Inventory of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms (Second Version). Outcome Documentation of pornography use norms among Utahns. Results In our sample, 79% reported viewing pornography in their lifetime (85% of men, 75% of women). The most common frequency of pornography viewing was weekly or monthly among men, and monthly or every 6 months among women, which is comparable to national averages. Men and women showed significantly different pornography use frequencies. We demonstrate a relationship between higher levels of pornography use and higher perceived levels of pornography use as a problem or “addiction” and depression scores and explore the typical demographics of our highest pornography users. Clinical Translation This study will aid clinicians in using the COPS to derive normal pornography use compared to above average pornography use among pornography users from a religious background, especially for clinicians who seek to provide normative data to clients presenting with problematic pornography use like in motivational interviewing interventions. Strengths and Limitations Strengths include our measures generally demonstrated strong validity, we provide the beginnings of sound clinical implementation of the COPS for benchmarking pornography use in a clinical setting in Utah, and that our sample was representative of the state of Utah according to current census data. Limitations include those commonly seen in survey-based data collection methods, and that findings from our unique Utah sample may not be as relevant among other religious or cultural samples. Conclusion Our findings provide an updated picture of pornography use in the state of Utah and suggest that even those high in religiosity continue to use pornography. Our results can provide a spectrum of pornography use, aiding a pornography user in treatment to be able to compare his or her use to this norm. Esplin CR, Hatch SG, Ogles BM, et al. What is Normal Pornography Use in a Highly Religious Area? Exploring Patterns of Pornography Use in Utah. J Sex Med 2021;XX:XXX–XXX.
... 3 Because of the cultural stigma of moral status, it is difficult for researchers to define pornography, and they utilize euphemism phrases such as uncensored media or materials, aphrodisiacal, or online sexual activity to refer to pornography. [4][5][6] The average age of pornography consumers declined in current years, which enlightens that people at an early age are being exposed to such media or materials and may influence the understanding of young adults regarding sexual behavior. They get confused to find normal, acceptable, and rewarding sexual attitudes. ...
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Aim The topic of pornography use is controversial. It is important to understand how young people use pornography and determine whether pornography use has adverse effects on health and well-being. Methods A comprehensive systematic literature search was conducted in 4 electronic databases (PubMed, Google Scholar, CINAHL plus, and Cochrane library) with appropriate MeSH terms “sexual health” and “pornography” and Boolean operators “AND” and “OR,” using SPIDER search strategy tools (sample, phenomenon of interest, design, evaluation, and research type). 11 articles were proceeded with systematic review after critical appraisal following PRISMA guidelines. Results The major findings of the study imply that traditional and unimaginative activities depicted in some pornography and sexualized media are harmful because they impose restricted and circumscribed concepts of sex and sexuality. As a result, sexism, sexual objectification, neoliberal sexual consumerism, and sexual variety are reproduced and reinforced rather than promoted. FPU is linked to better levels of sexual comfort and self-acceptance and reduced levels of anxiety, shame, and guilt over sexual behavior. Pornography consumption has also been linked to increased arousal and orgasm responses, a greater interest in sex, acceptance of various sexual acts, and more sexual experimentation. Conclusion Watching pornography may be a healthy phenomenon if it is occasional, not impairing the personal and social life; however, it can become pathological if watched excessively and impairs the individual’s functioning.
... The benign website is a fitness building website (referred to by the pseudonym 'GetFit' in this paper), tailored to this demographic. This demographic selection is due to men being more likely to be exposed to CEM through their greater use also of P2P networks [31], and men are more likely than females to be pornography users [48], and to have viewed a broader range of pornography [49], like "barely legal". Targeting younger adults will make the results more applicable to CEM-prevention strategies. ...
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Honeypots have been a key tool in controlling and understanding digital crime for several decades. The tool has traditionally been deployed against actors who are attempting to hack into systems or as a discovery mechanism for new forms of malware. This paper presents a novel approach to using a honeypot architecture in conjunction with social networks to respond to non-technical digital crimes. The tool is presented within the context of Child Exploitation Material (CEM), and to support the goal of taking an educative approach to Internet users who are developing an interest in this material. The architecture that is presented in the paper includes multiple layers, including recruitment, obfuscation, and education. The approach does not aim to collect data to support punitive action, but to educate users, increasing their knowledge and awareness of the negative impacts of such material.
... Concerns have been raised about IP as a damaging presence in the lives of young people, and a poor 'Porn Literacy' as Pedagogy? domain of socialisation, with many researchers across disciplines arguing that it promotes risky behaviour and sexual permissiveness (Albertson et al., 2018;Carroll et al., 2008), can provide misinformation about safe sex practices, and may lead to body dissatisfaction and sexual desensitisation. Morrison et al. (2004, p. 125) argue that IP presents a "sexual fantasy land", portraying unrealistic sexual engagements between the ideal male and female in an environment that appears consequence free. ...
Thesis
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Youth encounters with Internet pornography (IP) have led to global concern regarding the healthy sexual socialisation of youth. A growing body of critical research recognises young people as agentic political actors in their sexual socialisation with legitimate knowledge of their own experiences, and seeks to understand their perspectives alongside those of influential adults in their lives. Grounded in social constructionist thinking, my research extends this emerging body of knowledge. I investigate how key stakeholders (16-18-year-olds, caregivers, and educators) account for and discursively construct youth engagement with IP, and explore their perspectives on porn literacy education. The central premise of this scholarship is to determine how such knowledge might translate positively for young people through sexuality education that recognises their lived realities. Key stakeholders were recruited from nine schools across the North Island of Aotearoa, New Zealand. A mixed-methods design was employed over sequential phases, comprising an online survey (N = 484), a Q-sort (N = 30), and semi-structured interviews (N = 24). Descriptive statistical analyses of the survey data provided a preliminary understanding of youth engagement with IP; a specialised software programme assisted with factor analysis for the Q-methodological study investigating perspectives towards porn literacy education; and interview data were analysed by means of a critical thematic analysis, drawing on a feminist discursive approach to sexual scripting theory. Key research findings are presented across four research articles and indicate that; (i) (gendered) youth engagement with IP is commonplace, and there are varied understandings between stakeholder groups and across genders as to why and how these encounters occur, (ii) youth take up agentic positions that suggest they are active, legitimate sexual citizens, and adults generally harbour concerns about recognising youth in this way, and (iii) the construction of childhood innocence dubiously positions youth as uncritical, ‘at risk’ viewers of IP. Accordingly, protectionist adult intervention is justified and conceptualised in accordance with this construction of youth. My research highlights dominant and alternative constructions about youth sexuality, and describes the synergies and discrepancies across key stakeholder perspectives about youth engagement with IP. Importantly, my findings suggest some youth engage with IP in a more nuanced manner than typically assumed. Through gaining a comprehensive understanding of stakeholders' perspectives, the findings of my research expand scholarly knowledge by providing practical inquiry into the potential of porn literacy as pedagogy.
... Although NSES recommends that content related to sexual consent, personal boundaries, and gender roles be addressed in all sexual health programs, a review of sexual health programs in the United States indicated that most evidenced-based sexuality programs in schools omit components related to healthy relationships and gender roles (Schmidt et al., 2015). Compounding this gap in sex education, minors are exposed to the pervasive media messages about sex and sexualization (Carroll et al., 2008), which is associated with damaging outcomes (Bridges et al., 2010). Given that minors have frequent and easy access to depictions of sexual behavior that often include and normalize violence (Bridges et al., 2010), there needs to be accompanying education related to mutuality, consent, and respect within sexual relationships. ...
Preprint
Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) has been shown to be effective in reducing risk of sexual assault victimization among women, but because research in this area is still in its infancy, less is known about additional intervention outcomes that may explain how and why the intervention is effective and about other ways that ESD affects students. The purpose of this study was to examine ESD instructor perspectives about intervention outcomes they perceive to be most important for their students. Using qualitative case-study methodology, interviews from 15 ESD instructors from the United States and Canada were conducted and analyzed using thematic analysis, which yielded six themes: Agency, boundaries, core beliefs, health and healing, somatic experiences, and gender and intersectionality, with each theme having two or more subthemes. Although some of these outcomes have been quantitatively evaluated in previous ESD studies, over half (n=10) have not yet been empirically measured. These ten outcomes include enactment, self-determination, nonverbal communication, relationship quality, self-worth, healing, physical strength and power, downregulation, support and solidarity, and societal-level changes. In addition to developing standardized tools to measure these outcomes, future research should quantitatively evaluate these outcomes across diverse student populations and explore their effect on producing the profound outcome associated with ESD, which is reduced risk for sexual assault victimization. 3 Beyond Sexual Assault Prevention: Targeted Outcomes for Empowerment Self-Defense
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The ills of modeling variables substantively involved in a causal process as “controls” have been discussed extensively by social scientists who do not study media. Until recently, Slater was one of the few communication scientists to suggest that media effects scholars engage in overcontrol. Bushman and Anderson have now echoed this concern in the context of a broader treatise on research trends in the media violence literature. The present study responded to Wright’s recent discussion of control variable usage in the pornography literature. Specifically, using a national probability sample of approximately 1,900 U.S. adults, the present study assessed whether multiple demographic variables routinely modeled as controls in the pornography effects literature may be better conceptualized as initiating predictors. Results were inconsistent with the confounding approach but consistent with the hypothesis that individual differences predict cognitive response states that increase or decrease the likelihood of media effects.
Article
Empowerment Self-Defense (ESD) has been shown to be effective in reducing risk of sexual assault victimization among women, but because research in this area is still in its infancy, less is known about additional intervention outcomes that may explain how and why the intervention is effective and about other ways that ESD affects students. The purpose of this study was to examine ESD instructor perspectives about intervention outcomes they perceive to be most important for their students. Using qualitative case-study methodology, interviews from 15 ESD instructors from the United States and Canada were conducted and analyzed using thematic analysis, which yielded six themes: Agency, boundaries, core beliefs, health and healing, somatic experiences, and gender and intersectionality, with each theme having two or more subthemes. Although some of these outcomes have been quantitatively evaluated in previous ESD studies, over half ( n = 10) have not yet been empirically measured and are the focus of this article. These 10 outcomes include enactment, self-determination, nonverbal communication, relationship quality, self-worth, healing, physical strength and power, downregulation, support and solidarity, and societal-level changes. In addition to developing standardized tools to measure these outcomes, future research should quantitatively evaluate these outcomes across diverse student populations and explore their effect on producing the profound outcome associated with ESD, which is reduced risk for sexual assault victimization.
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The increasing curiosity and various hormones (partic­u­lar­­ly sexual hormones) are problems for adolescents, which fre­quent­ly cause them to become unstable. Another factor that con­tri­butes to the complexity of adolescent problems is technological advances. Apart from being a useful means of information tech­nology that is generally beneficial to human life, the internet may also become a threat to adolescents by facilitating access to explicit sexual content, namely online pornography. Besides the above factors, this research exam­ined other factors associated with adoles­cents’ inclination to con­sume online porno­graphy. The purpose of this study is to discover whether there is a correlation between past experiences of vio­lence and parental attachment to the desire to use online por­no­gra­phy. The research method is quantitative and the research subjects were adolescents (N=167, male=70.1%, female=29.9%, M=15–19 years). The findings revealed two things: first, there was no correlation between the past experiences of violence and the desire to use online porno­graphy (r=0.102; p>0.05); and second, parental attachment had a negative cor­relation with the desire to use online pornography (r=–0.157; p<0.05). The contribution of this research is to reaffirm the significance of quality adolescent-parent attachment in fostering a whole­some emotional sense of security and developing a healthy sexu­al identity.
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The purpose of this study was to investigate variables-beyond those examined traditionally within a harms-based framework-that may be associated with exposure to sexually explicit material (SEM). These variables included: genital self-image, sexual anxiety, sexual esteem, perceived importance of engaging in safer sex practices, and perceived susceptibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Participants were 584 (382 female, 202 male) students enrolled in an Introductory Psychology course at a Canadian university. Significant results indicated that exposure to SEM correlated positively with sexual esteem (male and female participants) and with estimated number of sexual partners (females only). As well, for male and female participants, differences in exposure to SEM were noted as a function of sexual status (i.e., virgin/non-virgin), with those who had not experienced vaginal intercourse reporting lower levels of exposure than those who had engaged in this sexual activity. Finally, as predicted, male and female participants' levels of sexual anxiety were inversely correlated with their self-reported exposure to SEM. Such findings underscore the need to move beyond a traditional harms-based framework and, in so doing, formulate models that capture the complexity of the viewer/SEM interchange.
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A meta-analysis of 46 published studies was undertaken to determine the effects of pornography on sexual deviancy, sexual perpetration, attitudes regarding intimate relationships, and attitudes regarding the rape myth. Most of the studies were done in the United States (39; 85%) and ranged in date from 1962 to 1995, with 35% (n=16) published between 1990 and 1995, and 33% (n=15) between 1978 and 1983. A total sample size of 12,323 people comprised the present meta-analysis. Effect sizes (d) were computed on each of the dependent variables for studies which were published in an academic journal, had a total sample size of 12 or greater, and included a contrast or comparison group. Average unweighted and weighted d's for sexual deviancy (.68 and .65 ), sexual perpetration (.67 and .46), intimate relationships (.83 and .40), and the rape myth (.74 and .64) provide clear evidence confirming the link between increased risk for negative development when exposed to pornography. These results suggest that the research in this area can move beyond the question of whether pornography has an influence on violence and family functioning. Various potentially moderating variables such as gender, socioeconomic status (SES), number of incidents of exposure, relationship of person who introduced pornography to the participant, degree of explicitness, subject of pornography, pornographic medium, and definition of pornography were assessed for each of the studies. The results are discussed in terms of the quality of the pornography research available and the subsequent limitations inherent in the present meta-analysis. A Meta-Analysis of the Published Research on the Effects of Pornography The issue of exposure to pornography has received a great deal of attention over the years. An overwhelming majority of adults in our society, both men and women, report having been exposed to very explicit sexual materials. In fact, Wilson and Abelson (1973) found that 84% of men and 69% of women reported exposure to one or more of pictorial or textual modes of pornography, with the majority of the group first being exposed to explicit materials before the age of 21 years. Coupled with more opportunities for people to access materials via a greater variety of media (e.g., magazines, television, video, world wide web), it is becoming increasingly important to investigate whether exposure to pornography has an effect on human behaviour. While the list of psychological sequelae that researchers have shown to be statistically common in persons exposed to pornography is immense, controversy and doubt are prevalent. Though the ongoing academic debate has relevant and significant socio-political implications, it is apparent that the issue of pornography has frequently been approached from a philosophical and moral stance rather than an empirical position. The present meta-analytic investigation attempts to redirect the focus of the question of pornography's potential effects to an empirical platform. The aim is to determine whether exposure to pornographic stimuli over the lifespan has any effect on sexual deviancy, sexual offending, intimate relationships, and attitudes regarding the rape myth. The results are expected to provide information which may assist families, educators, mental health professionals, and social policy directors in making
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Drawing on a survey of 745 Dutch adolescents ages 13 to 18, the authors investigated (a) the occurrence and frequency of adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit material on the Internet and (b) the correlates of this exposure. Seventy-one percent of the male adolescents and 40% of the female adolescents had been exposed to some kind of online sexually explicit material in the 6 months prior to the interview. Adolescents were more likely to be exposed to sexually explicit material online if they were male, were high sensation seekers, were less satisfied with their lives, were more sexually interested, used sexual content in other media more often, had a fast Internet connection, and had friends that were predominantly younger. Among male adolescents, a more advanced pubertal status was also associated with more frequent exposure to online sexually explicit material. Among female adolescents, greater sexual experience decreased exposure to online sexually explicit material.
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This survey of 760 university students assessed their online sexual activities pertaining to dating, education and entertainment, the associations of these online activities with offline sexual behaviour, and their reactions to the sexually explicit material (SEM) they encountered online. Half of the respondents used the Internet to obtain sexual information and said they benefited from it. About 40% went online to meet new people, and to view SEM. Sexual entertainment activities were frequent both online and offline with more men than women engaging in them. A factor analysis identifted four clusters of online and offline sexual activity: seeking partners; entertainment; sexual gratification; and in-person exploration. Masturbation while online was more common among those who reacted favourably to online SEM than those who reacted unfavourably. Those who found SEM disturbing or boring were less likely to have masturbated while online although whether or not respondents found online SEM arousing best distinguished between those who did or did not masturbate while online. The implications of the findings for sexual health education and future research are discussed.
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Drawing from developmental theories of interpersonal competence, this article presents a multidimensional model of marital competence and reports on a study that provides a preliminary evaluation of the model and its central tenets. Structural equation modeling analyses were run with a nationally representative sample of 750 couples to test the model. The results demonstrated that the model accounted for 65% to 67% of the variance in partners' relationship quality and provided initial support to the theoretical and empirical utility of distinguishing marital competence according to developmentally defined domains of intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies. Implications of these findings for research and intervention are discussed.
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