Young people make a link between pornography and their harmful sexual behaviour

November 24, 2016, University of Melbourne
Credit: University of Melbourne

Young people who had sexually abused other children said that helping them to manage pornography and improving their sexuality education could have helped prevent their abusive behaviour. The findings represent the rarely-captured voices of young people who sexually abuse, in a policy briefing paper released today by the University of Melbourne.

Researchers asked 14 young people what could have been different in their lives so that they did not develop harmful sexual behaviour. They also asked six treatment-providing workers to reflect on the insights of the young people. Three main opportunities for prevention emerged, including taking action in the lives of young people to:

  • make their home and school relationships safe
  • reform their sexuality education
  • help their management of

The study's lead author Gemma McKibbin, PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne said that the findings made it clear that more needed to be done in sexual health policy for vulnerable groups of children, and to restrict young people's access to pornography.

"The access that young people are having to pornography, as well as our collective 'turning a blind eye,' is akin to a kind of cultural grooming of children," Ms McKibbin added.

Sexually abusive behaviour occurs when a child or young person sexually abuses another child or young person. Previous studies have shown that about half the victims of child-on-child sexual abuse are under the age of six, while the children who abuse are themselves likely to be aged just 12.

Of the young people who participated in the study, 12 said they had been exposed to pornography, while three of the boys directly attributed their sexually abusive behaviour to their pornography consumption.

"We can't on the one hand say we don't want to talk with young children about sexuality, while on the other hand do nothing about the multi-billion-dollar pornography industry and the that is enabling access," Ms McKibbin added.

"It may be that government needs to intervene at this point. Pornography can't be seen as the sole responsibility of parents or schools because it has gone way beyond that. We probably need to engage directly with the pornography industry and the telecommunications industry," she said.

The study participants also highlighted the need to improve as a way to promote respectful sexual relationships and counter the distorted messages they received from pornography.

"Consistent, protective sex education needed to be introduced as soon as children started school, if not before, Ms McKibbin said.

Study co-authors also included Professor Cathy Humphreys and Dr Bridget Hamilton from the University of Melbourne.

"The effects of child-on-child sexual abuse are negative and far-reaching for the victims as well as the young people who abuse," Prof Humphreys said.

"We have a great opportunity with the introduction of Respectful Relationships Education in Victorian schools to address sexually abusive behaviour.

"This report makes a significant contribution to curriculum messages that could be specifically designed to prevent such behaviour, and protect our vulnerable ."

Explore further: Change sex education to combat the effects of porn, say researchers

Related Stories

Change sex education to combat the effects of porn, say researchers

October 18, 2016
A Parliamentary Group focusing on family and child protection is to hear how changes are needed to sex education in the classroom to protect young people from the damaging effects of pornography.

Report calls for urgent action and further research to protect children from exposure to pornography

June 11, 2013
Kristina Massey, Lecturer in the Department of Law and Criminal Justice Studies, is part of a research team, led by Middlesex University, calling for urgent action and further study on the effect pornography has upon the ...

Large numbers of teenage girls experience sexual coercion in relationships

February 11, 2015
More than four in ten teenage schoolgirls in England have experienced sexual coercion, new research by University of Bristol academics launched today [11 February] reveals. Most were pressured to have sex or other sexual ...

Teenagers' pornography and sexual experiences—fewer differences than expected

April 8, 2014
Although a greater proportion of teenage boys than girls watch and fantasise about sex they have seen in pornography, there are no differences between the sexes when it comes to what types of sex they fantasise about. This ...

Internet porn bad for adolescent health

May 21, 2012
Emerging evidence indicates that internet pornography is strongly associated with risky sexual behavior among adolescents, according a review from UNSW's Kirby Institute.

Students want more from school sex ed, new survey reveals

March 16, 2016
School-based education programs have edged out friends and parents as secondary students' most used source of information about sexuality and relationships in a new survey by Deakin University and the University of South ...

Recommended for you

Breastfeeding protects infants from antibiotic-resistant bacteria

October 18, 2018
A recent study completed at the University of Helsinki investigated the amount and quality of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in breast milk and gut of mother-infant pairs. The findings have been published in the journal Nature ...

Inflammation in the womb may explain why some babies are more prone to sepsis after birth

October 9, 2018
Each year 15 million infants are born preterm and face high risks of short- and long-term complications, including sepsis, severe inflammation of the gut, and neurodevelopmental disorders. A new report in the American Journal ...

Dummies not to blame for common speech disorder in kids

October 9, 2018
New University of Sydney research shows bottles, dummies, and thumb sucking in the early years of life do not cause or worsen phonological impairment, the most common type of speech disorder in children.

'Genes are not destiny' when it comes to weight

October 9, 2018
A healthy home environment could help offset children's genetic susceptibilities to obesity, according to new research led by UCL.

Old drug could have new use helping sick premature babies

October 8, 2018
Researchers from The University of Western Australia, King Edward Memorial Hospital and Curtin University are investigating whether an old drug could be used to help very sick premature babies.

Insufficient sleep associated with risky behavior in teens

October 1, 2018
Adolescents require 8-10 hours of sleep at night for optimal health, according to sleep experts, yet more than 70 percent of high school students get less than that. Previous studies have demonstrated that insufficient sleep ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.