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Predictors of Pornography Use:

Full Article Title: Predictors of Pornography Use: Difficulties in Emotion Regulation and Loneliness.

Open Access: Yes



Background: Pleasure-seeking reasons are the main drivers of pornography use (PU), but the regulation of unpleasant states, namely distraction from or suppression of negative emotions and stress relief, are other potential predictors of this behavior.

Aim: Our main objective is to develop an explanatory model of problematic PU, assessing difficulties in emotion regulation, loneliness, perceived stress, as well as age and gender as predictors.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted that included a total of 340 participants (M = 28.50 years, SD = 10.32). Self-report inventories were administered that measured problematic PU (PPCS), difficulties in emotion regulation (DERS-SF), loneliness (UCLALS-3), and perceived stress (PSS-10).

Results: The findings were indicative of recreational PU, with only a small number of participants (4.6%) reporting a possible problematic PU. There were statistically significant gender differences (F(1,337) = 33.306, P ≤ .001), namely that men were more likely to report problematic PU (M = 36.03, SD = 21.30) than women (M = 25.32, SD = 9.24). Problematic PU was significantly and positively correlated either with difficulties in emotion regulation, loneliness, perceived stress and age. Stepwise multiple linear regression analysis showed that difficulties in emotion regulation (b = 0.259, P ≤ .001), loneliness (b = 0.209, P = .001), and gender (b = -0.377, P ≤ .001) define the best subset of predictors of problematic PU. Age and perceived stress were not selected as predictors in this subset.

Clinical Translation: The promotion of better emotion regulation abilities and strategies for adaptive coping with loneliness must be taken into consideration, namely in cases of problematic PU or compulsive sexual behavior disorder.

Strengths & Limitations: Being a cross-sectional study with a convenience sample and the fact that these variables explain only a part of the explained variance of the problematic PU are the main limitations. Despite the limitations, the principal contribution of this study is the understanding that gender, difficulties in emotion regulation, and loneliness remain as main predictors of problematic PU, even when combined in the explanatory model. Conclusion: The current study provides a better understanding of the predictors of problematic PU related with the reduction or avoidance of unpleasant states. Emotion regulation, loneliness, and perceived stress, studied simultaneously, provide a better understanding of the complex relationships between these factors and problematic PU. Difficulties in emotion regulation and loneliness are predictors of higher problematic PU, as well as the expected gender effect.



This study found “we found significant positive associations between difficulties in emotion regulation, loneliness, perceived stress and pornography use…we can hypothesize that pornography use can also be a self-medication strategy, used to cope with psychological distress related to difficulties in emotion regulation.”



Cardoso, J., Ramos, C., Brito, J., & Almeida, T. C. (2022). Predictors of Pornography Use: Difficulties in Emotion Regulation and Loneliness. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 19(4), 620−628.


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