Vitality

Does Porn Negatively Affect Marriage? Watching Adult Content Doubles Divorce Risk, Study Suggests

Beginning to watch pornography negatively affects happily married couples, according to a new study by sociologists from the University of Oklahoma. Findings of the study, to be presented at the 111th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, suggest starting to consume adult video content doubles the risk of divorce for couples who were not very religious, newly married or happy in their marriage.

Researchers examined data collected from 5,000 adults who were interviewed at two-year intervals between 2006 to 2014 as part of the U.S. by the General Social Survey. The research team reportedly focused on the 373 married people who had not watched porn during one interview, but started watching it subsequently. About 71 percent of the total respondents said they did not watch porn at any point during the entire study time frame, and 15 percent reported watching adult content regularly through the survey years. Only 7 percent started watching porn during the survey.

“Beginning pornography use between survey waves nearly doubled one’s likelihood of being divorced by the next survey period, from 6 percent to 11 percent, and nearly tripled it for women, from 6 percent to 16 percent,” Samuel Perry, lead author of the study, said in a statement released Monday. “Our results suggest that viewing pornography, under certain social conditions, may have negative effects on marital stability.”

The study, which is not peer-reviewed or published, found that chances of divorce were higher for younger adults.

“Younger Americans tend to view pornography more often than older Americans, and older Americans generally have more stable marriages since they tend to be more mature, financially established, and likely already have more time invested in the relationship,” Perry said. “So, we thought it made perfect sense that the effect of pornography use on divorce would grow weaker with age.”

Porn 3D glasses are offered to attendees to watch Bad Girls adult entertainment movies in 3D at the Bad Girl booth at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas, Jan. 9, 2010. Getty Images/AFP/Robyn Beck

According to the study, for respondents who did not attend religious services every week, watching porn was linked to an increase from 6 percent to 12 percent in chances of getting divorce by the next interview. However, the impact was opposite for church-goers who attended services at least once a week.

“Because religious groups stigmatize divorce and prioritize marital stability, it is likely that married Americans who are more religious will experience a greater combination of community pressure and internalized moral pressure to stay married, regardless of pornography's effect on their marital quality,” Perry said.

Moreover, porn also impacted happily married couples whose chances of divorce increased from 3 percent to 12 percent if they began watching pornography between two surveys. But this effect was not seen in the couples who were comparatively less happy in their marriage.

“We took this to mean that pornography use — perhaps if it’s discovered by one’s spouse unexpectedly — could rock an otherwise happy marriage to the point of divorce, but it doesn’t seem to make an unhappy marriage any worse than it already is,” Perry noted.

Researchers also found that probability of divorce dropped to 6 percent for men whose wives stop watching adult films. However, if the wives continued watching porn, the likelihood of getting divorce was 18 percent. The study did not find any change in divorce rates for men who stopped watching porn.

Perry clarified that despite the study's findings, his team was not trying to push people to discontinue watching adult material.

“We have no desire to push a ‘ban pornography’ agenda on the grounds that it can be harmful to marriages,” Perry he said. “Neither one of us is on a moral crusade. We think information is helpful, and [people] should be aware of the potential consequences of pornography under certain circumstances.”

A 2014 study published in peer-reviewed Psychology of Popular Media Culture journal said that the more a person watches porn, the more likely they are to favor extramarital affairs, which researchers noted is one of the leading causes of divorce in the U.S. According to American Psychological Association, about 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the U.S. end up divorcing.

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