Research published in The Journal of Sex Research found that teens who watch porn feel less satisfied and watch more porn later as adults.
The study, conducted by Brian J. Willoughby, Bonnie Young-Petersen, and Nathan D. Leonhardt, asked 908 adults about their prior and current pornography use, personal relationships, and mental health. These adults were asked to provide data in these areas for each year of their lives beginning at age seven.
The responders roughly fell into four different categories based on the age at which they began using pornography:
*Early engager: 7-10 years old
*Pubescent engager: 11-13 years old
*Late engager: 14-17 years old
*Abstainers: Almost no engagement with pornography at any age
The participants in the first two groups, those who began using pornography consistently between the ages of seven and thirteen years old, were more likely to have continued using pornography throughout their lives and consumed more pornography than the other two groups. They also were more likely to agree with these statements:
“My thoughts about pornography are causing problems in my life.”
“My desires to view pornography disrupt my daily life.”
“I sometimes fail to meet my commitments and responsibilities because of my pornography use.”
“Sometimes my desire to view pornography is so great that I lose control.”
“I have to struggle not to view pornography.”
Unsurprisingly, these early engagers were also more likely to use pornography compulsively as adults.
The participants in the abstainer group were more likely to be married as adults and reported slightly better mental health and greater life satisfaction than those in other groups.
The data from this study also suggested that those who used pornography infrequently or inconsistently demonstrated similar patterns and outcomes to the abstainer group. This may be the best news of the study, because it means healing really is possible for those who leave pornography behind!
Despite all the positive outcomes for teens who avoided pornography, the researchers found that these teens were less sexually knowledgeable and confident than their peers who watched porn. The study’s authors stressed the importance of providing teens with appropriate sex education and preparing them to be confident in their sexuality as adults.
The authors of this study also repeatedly emphasized the negative consequences for pornography use as children. These children grew up to use more pornography, display more dysfunctional pornography use (like addiction and compulsive use), were significantly less satisfied with their lives, and were least likely to be married as adults. As parents, we may not be able to shield our children from pornography forever, but simply protecting them through childhood will pay off dividends for their future.
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