Exploring Trajectories of Pornography Use Through Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood




While the scholarly literature on pornography use is growing, much of this literature has examined pornography use as a static feature that does not change. Despite this trend, pornography use, like most sexual behaviors, is likely best viewed as a dynamic feature that may shift across the developmental life span. Using a sample of 908 adults from the United States, retrospective data on pornography use through adolescence and emerging adulthood were gathered to explore trajectories of pornography use across these developmental periods. Latent mixture models suggested the presence of common patterns of use across both developmental periods. Adolescence patterns appeared to largely be distinguished by those who either engaged or did not engage with pornography, while emerging adulthood data revealed the presence of a group of experimenters who engaged in pornography through adolescence but then decreased use through their 20s. Men were found to be more likely to have consistent profiles of pornography use, while single adults were likely to have delayed entry into pornography use. Associations with adult mental health and pornography use were found, suggesting that early exposure to pornography was related to elevated current pornography use patterns and, to a lesser extent, dysfunctional pornography use. Trajectories also had a weak association with life satisfaction, with individuals reporting trajectories involving consistent pornography use reporting lower life satisfaction after controls.

Original Publication Citation

Willoughby, B. J., Young-Petersen, B.*, & Leonhardt, N.* (2018). Exploring how trajectories of pornography use through adolescence and emerging adulthood are associated with later adult outcomes. Journal of Sex Research, 55, 297-309.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



The Journal of Sex Research




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor