Does Viewing Pornography Reduce Marital Quality Over Time? Evidence from Longitudinal Data

Arch Sex Behav. 2017 Feb;46(2):549-559. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0770-y. Epub 2016 Jul 7.


Numerous studies have examined the connection between pornography viewing and marital quality, with findings most often revealing a negative association. Data limitations, however, have precluded establishing directionality with a representative sample. This study is the first to draw on nationally representative, longitudinal data (2006-2012 Portraits of American Life Study) to test whether more frequent pornography use influences marital quality later on and whether this effect is moderated by gender. In general, married persons who more frequently viewed pornography in 2006 reported significantly lower levels of marital quality in 2012, net of controls for earlier marital quality and relevant correlates. Pornography's effect was not simply a proxy for dissatisfaction with sex life or marital decision-making in 2006. In terms of substantive influence, frequency of pornography use in 2006 was the second strongest predictor of marital quality in 2012. Interaction effects revealed, however, that the negative effect of porn use on marital quality applied to husbands, but not wives. In fact, post-estimation predicted values indicated that wives who viewed pornography more frequently reported higher marital quality than those who viewed it less frequently or not at all. The implications and limitations of this study are discussed.

Keywords: Gender; Marital quality; Marriage; Panel data; Pornography; Relationship quality.

MeSH terms

  • Erotica*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • Spouses / psychology*
  • Spouses / statistics & numerical data*