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Theoretical Antecedents of Male Adolescents’ Problematic Pornography Use

Theoretical Antecedents of Male Adolescents’ Problematic Pornography Use: A Longitudinal AssessmentFull Article Name: Theoretical Antecedents of Male Adolescents’ Problematic Pornography Use: A Longitudinal Assessment

Open Access: No


Although considerable research has examined the antecedents of adolescents’ pornography use (PU), little data exist on the underlying mechanisms of problematic pornography use (PPU) in adolescence. To bridge this gap, the current longitudinal study examined the long-term associations between adolescent boys’ PU frequency, PPU, and theory-based predictors of PPU. Testing three conceptual models (the moral incongruence, out of control, and mood management models), we examined the relative contributions of impulsivity, depression/anxiety symptoms, and religiosity to PPU, controlling for PU over time. The analysis was conducted using a panel sample of 337 Croatian men (Mage = 15.9 years, SD = 0.52). Latent growth curve modeling showed that baseline levels of, and subsequent growth in PU predicted later higher levels of PPU, irrespective of participants’ religiosity, negative emotions, and impulsivity. Baseline higher levels of negative emotions and impulsivity predicted higher levels of PPU three years later, even after controlling for the growth in PU over time. Religiosity moderated the association between changes in PU and PPU. Growth in PU resulted in higher PPU among more religious adolescents, compared to their less religious peers. This study’s findings support all three conceptual models explaining PPU in adults and may guide clinical work with adolescents seeking help for PPU.



    Problematic pornography use in late adolescence was “directly and significantly predicated” by “increased levels” of impulsivity and depression/anxiety in middle adolescence. The authors “suggest that adolescents are at particular risk” for problematic pornography use “if they have difficulties in delaying gratification and – simultaneously – experience negative mood.” Impulsive adolescents, when they experience negative moods, “may turn to pornography to distract themselves from the experienced stressor.” Furthermore, the “significant positive correlation between impulsivity and negative mood suggests that both constructs may reinforce each other, resulting in a vicious circle” of problematic pornography use. Last, religious adolescents who use pornography may experience even greater psychological distress from their use due to the cognitive dissonance and moral incongruence.



    Rousseau, A., Bőthe B, & Štulhofer A. (2020). Theoretical antecedents of male adolescents’ problematic pornography use: a longitudinal assessment. Journal of Sex Research, 1–11.


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