The Development of the Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale (PPCS) (2017)

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István Tóth-Király, Ágnes Zsila, Mark D. Griffiths, Zsolt Demetrovics & Gábor Orosz

Pages 1-12 | Published online: 06 Mar 2017

The Journal of Sex Research


To date, no short scale exists with strong psychometric properties that can assess problematic pornography consumption based on an overarching theoretical background. The goal of the present study was to develop a brief scale, the Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale (PPCS), based on Griffiths’s (2005) six-component addiction model that can distinguish between nonproblematic and problematic pornography use. The PPCS was developed using an online sample of 772 respondents (390 females, 382 males; Mage = 22.56, SD = 4.98 years). Creation of items was based on previous problematic pornography use instruments and on the definitions of factors in Griffiths’s model. A confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was carried out—because the scale is based on a well-established theoretical model—leading to an 18-item second-order factor structure. The reliability of the PPCS was excellent, and measurement invariance was established. In the current sample, 3.6% of the users belonged to the at-risk group. Based on sensitivity and specificity analyses, we identified an optimal cutoff to distinguish between problematic and nonproblematic pornography users. The PPCS is a multidimensional scale of problematic pornography use with a strong theoretical basis that also has strong psychometric properties in terms of factor structure and reliability.

This paper's goal was the creation of a problematic porn use questionnaire. In the process of validating the instruments, the researchers found that higher scores on the porn use questionnaire were related to lower sexual satisfaction. An excerpt:

Satisfaction with sexual life was weakly and negatively correlated with PPCS scores


Building on the previous problematic use conceptualizations and scales, the multidimensional Problematic Pornography Consumption Scale (PPCS) was developed on the theoretical basis of Griffiths’s addiction components model (Griffiths, 2001, 2005). However, it is important to note that the PPCS was established to assess problematic pornography use, not addiction, because addiction cannot be assessed on the basis of self-report alone without an indepth clinical interview (Ross, Mansson, & Daneback, 2012).

Accordingly, problematic pornography use included six core elements. The first element is salience, referring to the high importance of pornography in the person’s life, such that it dominates his or her thinking, feelings, and behaviors. The second component refers to mood modification as a subjective experience that users report as a consequence of viewing pornography. This experience can be either arousing or relaxing depending on the desired emotional state. The third dimension is conflict, including interpersonal conflicts between problematic users and their significant others, occupational or educational conflicts (depending upon the individual’s age), and intrapsychic conflicts (e.g., knowing the activity is causing problems but feeling unable to cut down or cease). The fourth dimension is tolerance and refers to the process whereby increasing amounts of the activity are required to achieve the same  mood-modifying effects.

In the present study, similarly to other arousal behavioral addictions, the quantitative and qualitative aspects of tolerance were our focus. The quantitative dimension refers to the growing amount of pornography use over time, whereas the qualitative aspect refers to consuming more diverse and extreme pornographic content.

According to Zimbardo and Duncan (2012), this qualitative aspect of arousal-based behavioral addictions is related to seeking constantly novel and surprising content. In the case of pornography this can be related to moving from soft-core pornography toward its more extreme, hard-core forms.

Thef fifth dimension is related to relapse and is the tendency for repeated reversions to earlier patterns of pornography use and returning to it quickly after abstinence or control. The sixth factor is withdrawal, referring to unpleasant feelings and emotional states that occur when the particular activity is discontinued or suddenly reduced. As withdrawal and tolerance are usually understood as a consequence of “dependence” (O’Brien, Volkow, & Li, 2006), addiction is a broader construct involving all six components described, in line with diagnostic addiction criteria employed in modern psychiatric nosology (American Psychiatric Association, 2013; World Health Organization, 1992). As dependence and addiction are usually viewed as different constructs, the frequency of pornography use and time spent engaging in the activity alone cannot be considered as a satisfactory definition of pornography addiction. It is probable that some individuals visit online pornography websites on a very regular basis, but they can stop the activity when it is necessary and they experience few, if any, negative or detrimental effects (Kor et al., 2014). Recent research has confirmed this, because the relationship between the frequency and duration of pornography use and problematic behavior itself is positive but only moderate (e.g., Brand et al., 2011; Grubbs et al., 2015; Twohig, Crosby, & Cox, 2009). Addiction and problematic use are overlapping concepts along the same continuum. However, it is more appropriate to use the term problematic use instead of addiction, when clinical evidence of an actual addiction cannot be provided with the use of self-reported data (Ross et al., 2012).


The present study aimed to develop a problematic pornography consumption scale that is strongly based on theoryalongside robust psychometric properties. Previous scales assessing problematic pornography use either did not have very strong psychometric properties or they had acceptable model fit, but the content of the factors raised theoretical questions (Grubbs et al., 2015; Kor et al., 2014).

According to the descriptive statistics, the average participant in the present study viewed pornography-related videos weekly, and he or she spent 16 to 30 minutes viewing pornographic material on each occasion. PPCS scores were weakly related to the time spent viewing pornography but moderately related to the frequency of viewing pornographic videos.

However, the present results suggest that problematic pornography use is more related to the frequency of viewing pornographic videos than the time spent engaged on each occasion. Despite the fact that frequent use of pornography is an essential part of problematic pornography use, frequency alone cannot be considered a satisfactory definition of this phenomenon

Recent research has confirmed this notion, because the relationship between the frequency and duration of use and problematic behavior itself is positive but only moderate (e.g., Brand et al., 2011; Grubbs et al., 2015; Twohig et al., 2009). Therefore, labeling people as problematic pornography users based only on the duration or the frequency.


Furthermore, regarding the form of the pornographic material, the frequency of pornographic video viewing was more strongly related to PPCS scores than viewing pornographic pictures or reading pornographic stories and thus in accordance with previous results (Brand et al., 2011). The frequency of masturbation was also moderately related to problematic pornography use. The strength of this relationship appeared to be even stronger than the association between PPCS scores and the frequency of viewing pornography during masturbation.

More specifically, a high level of sexual behavior might be a precursor of problematic pornography use, and it is assumed that both problematic pornography use and frequent masturbation are both consequences of hypersexuality. Therefore, problematic pornography use can appear under the umbrella of hypersexuality similarly to frequent masturbation, going to strip clubs, and engaging in phone sex and various forms of cybersex (Kafka, 2010

These individuals had high scores on each PPCS component. However, it is important to note that all three groups had relatively lower scores on the conflict component. Arguably, problematic pornography use is not as visible as other forms of problematic behaviors or addictions (such as substance abuse or drinking alcohol). Therefore, the interpersonal conflicts are not as prevalent as in the case of other potentially addictive behaviors. Despite the fact that the at-risk group viewed pornography more frequently and spent more time engaging in it on each occasion, the differences between the low-risk and at-risk groups were only trends.

sensitivity and specificity analyses revealed an optimal cutoff of 76 points for diagnosing problematic pornography use with the PPCS future studies should further validate this cutoff in a clinical sample to consolidate the present findings. Also, it is important to note that the use of scales is limited when employed as an early diagnostic indicator, because only clinically based interview studies are appropriate to diagnose that a specific behavior is truly problematic or pathological for a given individual (Maraz, Király, & Demetrovics, 2015).