Emerging adults recall of pornography use, sexual behaviour, and sexting during childhood and adolescence

Beadsmoore, L. (2021) Emerging adults recall of pornography use, sexual behaviour, and sexting during childhood and adolescence. DForenPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Available under Licence Creative Commons Attribution.
Download (2MB) | Preview


This thesis contributes to the research on sexual development by exploring the age progression of the first experience of sexual activities in both same-sex and opposite-sex partners. This information is related to pornography use, sexting, attachment style and sex education.

Firstly, the interactions between pornography use, sexual activities, and the transmission of self-image nudity during childhood and adolescence were explored, as recalled by emerging adults (EA) aged 18 to 25 years. In total, 3050 English-speaking participants (1627 males and 1423 females) completed an online questionnaire at three separate intervals from May 2016 to July 2018. Overall, 82.4% of males and 59.6% of females described themselves as heterosexual and were analysed separately from non-heterosexuals. Associations were found between viewing porn at less than 12 years of age and earlier age of first romantic relationship (except for heterosexual females), first showing genitals to another, first sexting, first experience with the opposite sex of all 7 sequential sexual activities from kissing to intercourse (except for heterosexual females), and primary school sex education (except non-heterosexual females). Regression analyses showed that first viewing porn under 12 years old was a predictor for under-age sex (less than 16 years of age) for heterosexual males only.

Across genders and sexualities, primary school sex education was found to be related to early onset of pornography use (under 12 years old). A relationship was also found between pornography use under 12 years old and early onset of sexting. Associations were found between early onset of sexting and underage sexual intercourse. This is suggestive of a pattern of linked behaviours following primary school sex education.

Secondly, the interactions between emotional attachments and age of first experience of sexual intercourse, sexting and viewing pornography, and frequency of viewing/using pornography were investigated. A sample of EA males and females (18 to 25 years old) were recruited using an online survey and were asked retrospective questions for age of first experience of a range of sexual activities with opposite or same-sex partners, first experience of using pornography use and first experience of sending a nude or semi-nude image of oneself to another person. This data was then analysed with regard to emotional attachment style. Of the 621 respondents analysed, 33% endorsed the ‘fearful’ response style, 29.3% ‘secure’, 24.3% ‘preoccupied’ and 13.4% ‘dismissive’. The findings suggest that EA women who endorse a dismissive relationship style are more likely to have had their first sexual experience with the Opposite Sex at an earlier age than those who endorse a Secure or Fearful relationship style. Furthermore, the results suggest that females who endorse a Secure relationship style are more likely to have had their first experience of viewing pornography at a later age than those who endorse a Preoccupied or Dismissive relationship style. The same results were not found for female’s first experience with the same sex or for males, with opposite or same sex.

Thirdly, the use and application of the 12-item ‘Problematic Pornography Use Scale’ (PPUS) to assess an individual’s self-reported behaviour over the last 6 months was evaluated. The factors measured by the PPUS are: (1) distress and functional problems, (2) excessive use, (3) control difficulties, and (4) use for escape/avoidance of negative emotions. The overall internal consistency, convergent and construct validity of the PPUS was high. However, concurrent and predictive validity may need further research and development with culturally sensitive norms for both males and females.

Fourthly, a systematic review was carried out to explore underage sex in adolescents and children, and the associated risk and protective factors. The search was conducted on six electronic databases as well as within the grey literature to identify quantitative studies which included males and females up to the age of 18 years old (or adults reporting retrospectively), with exposure to risk and protective factors for early onset of sexual intercourse (before 16 years of age), Altogether, 945 studies were identified for potential inclusion and 23 fulfilled the eligibility criteria to be included in the systematic review. Findings from 23 studies between 1996 and 2017 identified risk factors associated with underage sexual intercourse (under 16 years old).

The rapid increase of technological advances over the past 10 years, as well as the changing landscape of sexuality, provides policy and lawmakers with the challenge of addressing child and adolescent sexual activities which are occurring at a younger age. Sexting at an earlier age is linked to pornography use at an earlier age. This suggests that exposure to sexualised imagery is on the increase and is related to underage sex, and if unprotected sex, the consequence of an increasing number of teenage pregnancies. This may be damaging to the development of the individual.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DForenPsy)
Supervisors: Browne, K.
Keywords: Sexual development; Sex education; Emotional attachment style; Underage sex; Pornography; Sexting
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WS Pediatrics
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 66811
Depositing User: Beadsmoore, Lianne
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2021 08:01
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 14:48
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/66811

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View