Divorce more likely after pornography use begins

By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist

Pornography use has many negative effects on relationships, including an increased likelihood of divorce when married individuals begin a pornography habit, according to an analysis of years of social science research.

The study “Till Porn Do Us Part? A Longitudinal Examination of Pornography Use and Divorce” was conducted by researchers at the University of Oklahoma in Norman who analyzed data collected for the General Social Survey (GSS), a project of the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.

Respondents were interviewed three times about their pornography use and marital status between 2006 and 2014. Researchers focused on initially married respondents who reported no pornography use during their first interview and then measured the change in their pornography use and marital status during the period of study. Their responses were compared to those of married respondents who did not report pornography viewing during any of the three interviews.

Lead researcher Samuel Perry, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma, said beginning pornography use between interviews nearly doubled the likelihood of a man being divorced by the next interview, from 6 percent to 11 percent. For women, the likelihood nearly tripled, from 6 percent to 16 percent. For both husbands and wives, the results suggest that viewing pornography may have negative effects on marital stability, Perry said.

‘Can’t compete’

The results don’t surprise Traylor Lovvorn, co-founder of Undone Redone, a Birmingham-based recovery ministry and ministry partner of The Alabama Baptist.

“Pornography, by its very nature and design, leads the user to become discontent and to long for more,” Lovvorn said. “Real-world issues like paying bills, raising children and doing the laundry can’t compete with the fantasy world offered so readily by pornography.”

Pornography use in marriage also undermines and destroys intimacy, Lovvorn said.

“Hiding and secrecy are almost always associated with the use of pornography and the distorted view of sex presented through pornography is impossible for any spouse to compete against,” he said.

Young adults are especially vulnerable to the effects of pornography, according to the study. Perry and his co-author, Cyrus Schleifer, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Oklahoma, found that the younger an adult was when he or she began viewing pornography, the higher his or her probability of getting divorced by the next survey interview.

Perhaps one surprising result of the study was that among respondents who attend a religious service weekly, the probability of divorce was virtually unchanged as a result of beginning pornography use.

According to Perry, previous research has reported a stronger negative impact on the marriages of frequent churchgoers when pornography use was an issue.

‘Protective effect’

“But our findings suggest that religion has a protective effect on marriage, even in the face of pornography use. 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.”