Adolescents' use of sexually explicit internet material and their sexual attitudes and behavior: Parallel development and directional effects (2015)

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2015 Oct;51(10):1476-88. doi: 10.1037/dev0000040. Epub 2015 Aug 10.

Doornwaard SM1, Bickham DS2, Rich M2, Ter Bogt TF1, van den Eijnden RJ1.

Abstract

Although research has repeatedly demonstrated that adolescents' use of sexually explicit Internet material (SEIM) is related to their endorsement of permissive sexual attitudes and their experience with sexual behavior, it is not clear how linkages between these constructs unfold over time.

This study combined 2 types of longitudinal modeling, mean-level development and cross-lagged panel modeling, to examine (a) developmental patterns in adolescents' SEIM use, permissive sexual attitudes, and experience with sexual behavior, as well as whether these developments are related; and (b) longitudinal directionality of associations between SEIM use on the 1 hand and permissive sexual attitudes and sexual behavior on the other hand.

We used 4-wave longitudinal data from 1,132 7th through 10th grade Dutch adolescents (Mage T1 = 13.95; 52.7% boys) and estimated multigroup models to test for moderation by gender.

Mean-level developmental trajectories showed that boys occasionally and increasingly used SEIM over the 18-month study period, which co-occurred with increases in their permissive attitudes and their experience with sexual behavior. Cross-lagged panel models revealed unidirectional effects from boys' SEIM use on their subsequent endorsement of permissive attitudes, but no consistent directional effects between their SEIM use and sexual behavior.

Girls showed a similar pattern of increases in experience with sexual behavior, but their SEIM use was consistently low and their endorsement of permissive sexual attitudes decreased over the 18-month study period.

In contrast to boys, girls' SEIM use was not longitudinally related to their sexual attitudes and behavior. Theoretical and practical implications of these gender-specific findings are discussed.