New BYU study shows pornography of any kind is harmful to romantic relationships

A study recently put out by BYU shows a negative relationship between pornography and romantic relationships. According to the research, it does not matter which type of pornography is being viewed, it still harms relationships. (Anna Hair)

A new study conducted by BYU researchers shows the basic negative relationship between pornography and relationship quality.

Dr. Brian Willoughby, a BYU School of Family Life professor, and Carson Dover, a BYU graduate student, wrote the study focusing on relationship satisfaction and stability when pornography is involved.

Willoughby said the data they used for the study was part of a larger study he helped conduct a few years ago that focused specifically on pornography. The study was unique, Willoughby said, because most studies only ask a question or two about pornography instead of making it the focus.

The results from the most recent study confirmed the negative association between pornography and relationship quality. “Results suggested that both general and aggressive pornography use alone were associated with less relationship satisfaction and relationship stability even when accounting for a range of potentially confounding variables,” the study says.

Though the confounding variables still matter, the basic negative relationship between pornography use and relationship quality is still there, Willoughby added.

According to the research, it does not matter which type of pornography is being viewed, it still harms relationships. The study was able to look at mainstream pornography compared to aggressive pornography. “I thought that it would cause more of a difference but we actually found no difference,” Willoughby said.

So far, the study has received a fairly positive reaction from the scholarly community. Willoughby said there is a growing understanding of the risk tied to pornography.

“This is not the first study to find that pornography use may be negatively impacting romantic relationships, but it is one more piece of evidence that people should take note of,” Dover said.

It is important to note the study is not fully comprehensive or perfect, Dover said. “Our results shouldn’t be taken as the entire truth, but when study after study, sample after sample, and finding after finding reveals similar results, people need to pay attention,” he added.

Dover explained that helping people improve their relationships is what makes him passionate about studying romantic relationships and pornography. “My hope is that when people hear about this they will think about ways to help themselves, their own relationship, and the people around them in positive ways,” Dover said.

Dr. Mark Butler, faculty member of the School of Family Life, commented on how people can get help to overcome pornography addictions within relationships. “There is such an abundance of resources, both written and digital,” Butler said. He mentioned Lifestar, Fight the New Drug and Fortify.

“I also hope that this research influences other researchers, clinicians and policymakers to change the way we think and talk about pornography,” Dover said, “because it has been repeatedly shown to be associated with negative relationship outcomes, we need to do better about considering the risks of pornography for our relationships, families and society.”

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