Main Causes of Pornography Addiction

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Literature Review
  3. Alternative explanation
  4. Conclusion
  5. References


There is an increasingly widespread internet pornography exposure amongst all ages. This paper aims to investigate and identify which factor is the main cause of people becoming addicted to pornography. The literature review utilizes secondary sources from scholarly and peer-reviewed journal articles that encompasses different methodologies and researchers’ perspectives. Findings revealed that people become addicted to porn as they utilize it as a coping mechanism, a way of avoidance, and a means to satisfy their sexual desires. This paper concludes that while there are various confounding factors, the main identified cause of pornography addiction is the childhood upbringing of the individual which relates to the adult romantic attachment style adopted later in life.

Keywords: pornography addiction, coping mechanism, attachment style, avoidance, internet pornography

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The prevalence of porn addiction has been on the rise. Porn addiction is defined as the act of mature content consisting of sexual references. Despite efforts being done to eradicate this problem, there is still a wide array of people being increasingly exposed to pornography every day. Cooper and Sportolari (1997) remarked that it is because of factors such as accessibility, affordability, and anonymity of viewing pornography through the internet which enforces why this phenomenon is worsening (as cited in Fall & Howard, 2015). Albeit, porn addiction not being considered a mental disorder under the Diagnostical and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the dangers of pornography are evident. Schneider (2000) illustrated such dangers by pointing out that there are harmful relationship outcomes when there is excessive reliance on online sexual activities (as cited in Fall & Howard, 2015). Additionally, it was found that those who are exposed to Internet Pornography (IP) at a much younger age may promote increasing violence and substance abuse tendencies (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2005, as cited in Harper and Hodgins, 2016). While critics may argue that pornography provides benefits such as entertainment or avenue for adult film actors, its severity and prevalence evidently present that the cons outweigh its benefit. Thus, studies have been conducted to understand the causes of pornography addiction to solve this issue. Hence, this paper aims to identify the main cause of porn addiction by: (i) analyzing current studies linking pornography uses and coping mechanisms as well as (ii) providing an alternative explanation for the use of pornography.

Literature Review

Past research has examined the correlation between stress and the use of pornography as a form of coping mechanism. Fall and Howard (2015) provided us the Alfred Adler’s school of thought to better understand problematic IP uses. Their study consisted of a single case study on a participant name Eric. They examined Eric’s life to comprehend how he resorted to pornography in the first place through the Adlerian conceptualization – via methods of family constellation and tasks of life (Fall & Howard, 2015). His discovery of pornography led to him resorting to it every time to relieve any pressure that he faced since young. For instance, when he faces strains in his relationship or any problems, he would surf pornographic websites and masturbate. It became evident that he was addicted to pornography as he utilized them more when he felt pressure, and the behavior decreases when his relationship bettered. Thus, proving the hypothesis created by the researchers. Hence, pornography was Eric’s form of coping mechanism as a means to escape reality.

However, the authors did not elaborate that Eric’s strain with his parents from a young was the main perpetrator as to why he established his avoidant behavior. It was noted that Eric had a family history of violence and a feeling of detachment from his parents.

This loophole was addressed by Philaretou, Mahfouz, and Allen (2005), they supported this cause as they found that people who suffer from problematic IP tend to suffer from the psychosocial functioning issue (as cited in Harper and Hodgins, 2016). Psychosocial functioning is explained as anxiety, depression, and life and relationship satisfaction (Harper & Hodgins, 2016). When looked at in detail, these functions are attained from cumulative prior experiences and not something immediate. Harper and Hodgins (2016) studied 191 students from Canada on the relationship of IP use with psychosocial functioning and measures of addictions. They found that when one has high dissatisfactions in life, they are prone to suffer from problematic IP. Additionally, they confirmed that those who had early exposure to IP, are likely to have poorer psychosocial functioning too. Thus, it points out that not only do people with poor psychosocial functioning have problematic IP, but they are likely to be exposed from a young age too since IP provides them a platform for escape.

On a side note, according to Harper and Hodgins (2016), there are several limitations that they pointed out in their study. Firstly, their responses were based on self-reports, which presents that their study may not be comprehensive due to the sensitive nature of questionnaires.

Secondly, it must be noted that this study was only conducted on college students, hence, the study may not be representative of the rest of the population. Lastly, there is no apparent or detailed reasoning as to why IP use existed when there is poorer psychosocial functioning.

Upon further analyzing both papers, it is observed that they path the way to a bigger insight. Hence, there could be underlying factors that relate back to the person's younger age experiences. These insights show how these individuals eventually conform to excessive IP usage.

Alternative explanation

Ferron, Lussier, Sabourin, and Brassard (2017) conducted a study on the roles of IP and cyber infidelity to that of personality and attachment, and couple and sexual satisfaction. They recruited over 779 French-Canadians who are currently in a relationship and own a computer living in Quebec. Each participant was made to attempt questionnaires and scales on the computer online for 45 minutes. Their study found that there were six scenarios where participants presented potential unfaithful behaviors - 12.1% claimed that they visited adult websites; 30.3% exchanged information through live chats; 82.9% had sexual exchanges using a webcam; 76.9% had sexual exchange without a webcam; 27.3% are members of an adult website and; 90.1% had cybersex through a webcam. Thus, this showed that there are more people than expected who conform to the use of internet pornography to satisfy their sexual desires.

Additionally, it was established that avoidance had a negative association with sexual satisfaction which later increases cyber infidelity through pornographic use. Findings also showed that a highly anxious or avoidant attached person is seen to be predicted in cyber infidelity behaviors too. Although it may not be directly explained that pornography use increased due to the need for avoidance, it is still clear that people go online to an adult websites to hide away from their problems. This is highly linked to Eric’s case whereby whenever he fails to have sexual satisfaction, he would rely on pornographic use to satisfy them.

The adult attachment style is a good predictor of avoidance behavior caused by anxiety over the establishment of relationships. Bogaerts, Vervaeke, and Goethals (2000) assessed the insecure attachment styles in relation to sexually abusive behavior. A between-group experiment was conducted with a total of 84 adult men convicted as sexual delinquents compared to that 80 adult men of matched characteristics. The study relied on the understanding of parental sensitivity, trust, intimacy, and adult romantic attachment of sexual offenders to that of a control group. This is accomplished through various instruments in accordance with the theories of John Bowlby’s attachment theory and Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory better understand the group's differences. Scales such as the ‘Adult attachment scale’ entailed multiple choice questions that were used to assess the individual’s adult romantic attachment style as proposed by Hazan & Shaver (1987, as cited in Bogaerts, Vervaeke & Goethals, 2000).

In their study, their first result reported that the affection of a father made a larger difference than that of a mother; an individual at the early 16 years of age is deprived of the love of his father, and they are likely to become a sexual delinquent. Their second results showed that trust and intimacy (as proposed by Erikson) in sexual delinquents are much lower than that of the control group too. The last result presented from the adult attachment scale results reported that sexual delinquents are likely to suffer from insecure attachment styles, become more avoidant, and experience mixed feelings about people and ideas.

Although Bogaerts et al. study did not explicitly explain pornographic use, it demonstrated that individuals whose youth experience in family upbringing are unpleasant lead to lower trust, intimacy, and the development of an insecure attachment style. According to Bogaerts, Vervaeke, and Goethals (2000), their upbringing does build up to the development of their reckless sexual behavior. As such, when linking back to Ferron, Lusser, Sabourin, and Brassard’s study, it shows that family upbringing will lead to the appropriate attachment style. The attachment style acts as a forecaster as to whether one may resort to pornographic uses as a form of coping mechanism. In hindsight, the avoidant behavior leading to pornographic use is a result of them coming from their sexual desires too. Individuals who have insecure attachment styles are likely to produce sexual delinquency behaviors that are detrimental. As such, they suppress those behaviors with other means which as resorting to watching pornography in the process of sublimation.


In retrospect, there are various causes of porn addiction among college students. This paper studied the different case studies and methodologies of journal articles and provided alternative explanations as to why porn addiction arises. This paper credits the use of pornography as a form of coping mechanism as a result of an addict’s attachment style. Taken as a whole, the parenting style of a person’s childhood is the determining factor as to which attachment style an individual will adopt in their childhood and later, carry over to their adulthood. Those who suffer from insecure attachment styles tend to adopt this addictive behavior over their securely attached counterparts. However, it is to be noted that the four studies conducted vary in internal validity as they depend on case studies and different methodologies such as questionnaires to gather data. The data gathered may not be fabricated but it may be hard to generalize them due to the limited participants or single-gendered study. Furthermore, prior to the experiment, participants were made known the purpose of the study to avoid ethical issues as such, the act of social desirability may skew the results as they would give morally right answers. Further studies are needed to attest if an individual’s childhood traumatic experience is a result of a parent’s liability. This liability in turn forms the attachment style of an individual and eventually, leads to the use of pornography as a form of coping mechanism.


  1. Bogaerts, S., Vervaeke, G., & Goethals, J. (2000). Research on parental sensitivity, trust, intimacy and adult romantic attachment as predictors for sexual delinquency. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 8(4), 503-515. doi:10.1023/A:1008756518205
  2. Fall, K. A. & Howard, R. C. (2015). An Adlerian Perspective on Problematic Internet Pornography Use. The Journal of Individual Psychology 71(3), 273-289. University of Texas Press. doi:10.1353/jip.2015.0030
  3. Ferron, A., Lussier, Y., Sabourin, S., & Brassard, A. (2017). The role of internet pornography use and cyber infidelity in the associations between personality, attachment, and couple and sexual satisfaction. Social Networking, 6(1), 1-18. doi:10.4236/sn.2017.61001
  4. Harper, C., & Hodgins, D. (2016). Examining Correlates of Problematic Internet Pornography Use Among University Students. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions, 5(2), 179-191. doi:10.1556/2006.5.2016.022
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Main Causes of Pornography Addiction. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“Main Causes of Pornography Addiction.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
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