Moral disapproval and perceived addiction to internet pornography: A longitudinal examination


Background and Aims: Internet pornography use is an increasingly common, yet controversial, behavior. Whereas mental health communities are divided about potentially problematic use patterns, many lay people identify as feeling dysregulated or compulsive in their use. Prior work has labeled this tendency perceived addiction to internet pornography (PA). This study’s aims were to (1) assess the association between PA at baseline and other factors, including actual levels of average daily pornography use and personality factors and (2) assess the associations between baseline variables and PA 1 year later. Design: Two large‐scale community samples were assessed using online survey methods, with subsets of each sample being recruited for follow‐up surveys 1 year later. Setting: United States. Participants: Participants were adults who had used pornography within the past 6 months recruited in two samples. Sample 1 (n = 1507) involved undergraduate students from three US universities and sample 2 (n = 782) involved web‐using adults. Subsets of each sample (sample 1, n = 146; sample 2, n = 211) were surveyed again 1 year later. Measurements: At baseline, we assessed average daily pornography use, PA and relevant predictors (e.g. trait neuroticism, trait self‐control, trait entitlement, religiousness, moral disapproval of pornography use). One year later, we assessed PA. Findings: Cross‐sectionally, PA was correlated strongly with moral disapproval of pornography use [sample 1, Pearson’s correlation: r = 0.68 (0.65, 0.70); sample 2, r = 0.58 (0.53, 0.63)]. Baseline moral disapproval [sample 1, r = 0.46 (0.33, 0.56); sample 2, r = 0.61 (0.51, 0.69)] and perceived addiction demonstrated relationships with perceived addiction 1 year later. We found inconclusive evidence of a substantial or significant association between pornography use and perceived addiction over time [sample 1, r = 0.13 (−0.02, 0.28); sample 2, r = 0.11 (−0.04, 0.25)]. Conclusions: Perceived addiction to internet pornography appears to be related strongly to moral scruples around pornography use, both concurrently and over time, rather than with the amount of daily pornography use itself.