The Influence of Pornography on Romantic Relationships of Emerging Adults

The Influence of Pornography on Romantic Relationships of Emerging Adults

Bonnie Young-Petersen (Brigham Young University, USA) and Brian J. Willoughby (Brigham Young University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1856-3.ch012
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Scholars have studied emerging adults and pornography extensively, but to date there is no research on how pornography influences how emerging adults approach and act in relationships. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the nature of pornography use among emerging adults, as well as to look at the relationship between pornography use and porn-related relational anxiety among emerging adults. The authors describe existing research on pornography and emerging adults, introduce their own study, and explain the results and implications.
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Researchers have been drawn to the study of emerging adulthood since Dr. Jeffrey Arnett introduced the term over 15 years ago (Arnett, 2000). Defined as the stage from the late teens through the twenties, emerging adulthood has attracted scholars because today’s emerging adults act differently compared to previous generations. Scholars have noted how this cohort differs in attachment patterns (Umemura, Lacinova, & Macek, 2014), sexual behavior (Bersamin, et al., 2014), ideas about marriage (Willoughby & Hall, 2015), technology use (Swanson & Walker, 2015), and religiosity (Salas-Wright, Vaughn, & Maynard, 2014). While extensive research has been conducted on multiple aspects of emerging adult life, scholars have paid special attention to the changing romantic relationship and sexuality patterns of this group (Stanley, Rhoades, & Fincham, 2011; Carroll et al., 2007; Willoughby, Hall, & Luczak, 2013; Lefkowitz & Gillen, 2006). Our particular study will examine pornography use patterns of emerging adults, as well as how pornography influences attitudes and feelings experienced in emerging adult romantic relationships.

Similar to the outburst of research on emerging adults, sexuality scholars have increasingly studied the effects of pornography on its consumers. Around the same time Arnett articulated his ideas about a new pre-adulthood phase, the Internet boom took over the western world, increasing pornography’s accessibility and use (Young, 2008). Today’s emerging adults are some of the most frequent consumers of pornography (Traen, Nilsen, & Stigum, 2006; Stack, Wasserman, & Kern, 2004; Coyne, Padilla-Walker, & Howard, 2013; Carroll et al., 2008). Yet scholarship explicitly linking emerging adults and pornography use is still limited and scholars have not addressed how changing trends in romantics among emerging adults are influenced by pornography use. In this chapter, we will look at what connections exist between pornography use and how emerging adults think about and act in romantic relationships. More specifically, our chapter will address the following questions:

  • 1.

    What is the nature of pornography use (including type, frequency, compulsive behaviors, and gender differences) among emerging adults?

  • 2.

    What is the relationship between pornography use and pornography-related anxiety in emerging adult romantic relationships?

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