Processes Underlying the Effects of Adolescents’ Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material: The Role of Perceived Realism
Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. M. (in press). Processes Underlying the Effects of Adolescents’ Use of Sexually Explicit Internet Material: The Role of Perceived Realism. Communication Research.
Although research has repeatedly demonstrated a link between adolescents’ exposure to sexually explicit internet material (SEIM) and sexual attitudes, the processes underlying this association are not well understood. More specifically, studies have pointed to a mediating role of perceived realism, but internally valid evidence is missing. To address these problems, we used data from a three-wave panel study among 959 Dutch adolescents. We investigated whether two dimensions of the perceived realism of SEIM – social realism and utility – mediated the impact of SEIM on adolescents’ instrumental attitudes toward sex (i.e., the notion of sex as primarily physical and casual rather than affectionate and relational). Structural equation modeling showed that more frequent use of SEIM increased both the perceived social realism and the perceived utility of SEIM. In turn, these two perceptions led to more instrumental attitudes toward sex. No evidence of reverse causality emerged.