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Causal link

Experts differ over any causal link, with some experts saying that use of child porn reduces the risk of offending,[1] and others arguing that it increases the risk.[2] A 2008 American review of the use of Internet communication to lure children outlines the possible links to actual behaviour regarding the effects of Internet child pornography.[3]

Criminal sexual intent

One perspective is that exposure to child pornography promotes criminal sexual intent that otherwise would not exist. The promotion may take place via material that legitimizes sexual interest in minors. Anonymity (or belief that anonymity exists) may further loosen the internal restraints, facilitated by still or moving images, which makes actual criminal sexual behaviour with children more probable if the person was already sexually motivated toward children, or, by creating new sexual interests in children. The review article states that these are plausible hypotheses,[3] but that there is a lack of clarity as to the general applicability of these mechanisms. The authors also note that, "among some groups of predisposed individuals, easy access to a wide variety of engrossing and high-quality child pornography could serve as a substitute for involvement with actual victims".[3]

Longitudinal study

A longitudinal study of 341 convicted child molesters in America found that pornography use correlated significantly with their rate of sexually re-offending. Frequency of pornography use was primarily a further risk factor for higher-risk offenders, when compared with lower-risk offenders, and use of highly deviant pornography correlated with increased recidivism risk for all groups.[4] The majority of men who have been charged with or convicted of child pornography offenses show pedophilic profiles on phallometric testing.[5] A study with a sample of 201 adult male child pornography offenders using police databases examined charges or convictions after the index child pornography offense(s). 56% of the sample had a prior criminal record, 24% had prior contact sexual offenses, and 15% had prior child pornography offenses. One-third were concurrently charged with other crimes at the time they were charged for child pornography offenses. 17% of the sample offended again in some way during this time, and 4% committed a new contact sexual offense. Child pornography offenders with prior criminal records were significantly more likely to offend again in any way during the follow-up period. Child pornography offenders who had committed a prior or concurrent contact sexual offense were the most likely to offend again, either generally or sexually.[6]

Mayo Clinic studies

According to the Mayo Clinic of the U.S.A., studies and case reports indicate that 30% to 80% of individuals who viewed child pornography and 76% of individuals who were arrested for Internet child pornography had molested a child, however they note that it is difficult to know how many people progress from computerized child pornography to physical acts against children and how many would have progressed to physical acts without the computer being involved.[7]

American Federal Bureau of Prisons

A study conducted by psychologists at the American Federal Bureau of Prisons has concluded that "many Internet child pornography offenders may be undetected child molesters", finding a slightly higher percentage of molesters among child pornography offenders than the Mayo Clinic study, though they also "cautioned that offenders who volunteer for treatment may differ in their behavior from those who do not seek treatment." The study was withdrawn by Bureau officials from a peer-reviewed journal which had accepted it for publication, due to concerns that the results were not applicable to the general population of offenders.[citation needed] Some researchers argued that the findings "do not necessarily apply to the large and diverse group of adults who have at some point downloaded child pornography, and whose behavior is far too variable to be captured by a single survey".[8] Child protection advocates and psychologists like Fred Berlin, who heads the National Institute for the Study, Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Trauma, expressed disapproval over the failure to publish the report.[8] A 1987 report by the U.S.A. National Institute of Justice described "a disturbing correlation" between traders of child pornography and acts of child molestation.[9]

Dissent from Dennis Howitt

Dennis Howitt (1995) disagrees with such research, explaining the weakness of correlational studies. He argues that "one cannot simply take evidence that offenders use and buy pornography as sufficient to implicate pornography causally in their offending. The most reasonable assessment based on the available research literature is that the relationship between pornography, fantasy and offending is unclear."[10]

Swiss study

A Swiss study reviewing the criminal record of 231 men who were charged with viewing child pornography found that those without a prior sexual conviction are unlikely to sexually assault a child.[11] The study found that in the 6 years before the 2002 police operation only 1% were known to have committed a hands-on sexual offence and only 1% committed a hands-on sex offence in the 6 years afterwards. The study reinforces previous research that consumers are well-educated and view other types of illegal pornography like acts involving animals and violence as well. Mr Urbaniok said it should not automatically be assumed that they were a risk for sexually assaulting a child and said: "Our results support the assumption that these consumers, in fact, form a distinct group of sex offenders. Probably, the motivation for consuming child pornography differs from the motivation to physically assault minors. Furthermore, the recidivism rates of 1% for hands-on and 4% for hands-off sex offences were quite low."[11] A 2005 paper by Canadian researchers Michael Seto and Angela Eke found that of 201 men charged with child pornography offences, 24% had committed prior offences of sexual contact and 4% went on to commit subsequent sexual offences after being charged or prosecuted.[11]

Research from the New York Times

According to the New York Times, "At least some men convicted of sexual abuse say that child pornography from the Internet fueled their urges. In a recent interview, one child sex offender serving a 14-year sentence in a Canadian federal prison said that looking at images online certainly gave him no release from his desires - exactly the opposite: 'Because there is no way I can look at a picture of a child on a video screen and not get turned on by that and want to do something about it.' he said."[8] According to the National District Attorneys Association of America, "In light of the documented link between individuals who view child pornography and individuals who actually molest children, each child pornography case should be viewed as a red flag to the possibility of actual child molestation."[12] John Carr, founding member of the United Kingdom Home Secretary’s Internet Task Force on Child Protection, in a report published by the NCH stated, "Many pedophiles acknowledge that exposure to child abuse images fuels their sexual fantasies and plays an important part in leading them to commit hands-on sexual offenses against children."[2]

Views on sublimation

Czech sex therapist Petr Weiss believes that child pornography use may decrease cases of child sexual abuse by allowing pedophiles to sublimate their desires.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Child porn consumers safe from prosecution in the Czech Republic
  2. 2.0 2.1 Carr, John (2004). Child abuse, child pornography and the internet: Executive summary. NCH.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wolak, James; David Finkehor, Kimberly Mitchell, Michele Ybarra (February 2008). "Online "Predators" and Their Victims" (PDF). American Psychologist 63 (2): 111–128. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.63.2.111. PMID 18284279. Retrieved 2008-03-07.
  4. Kingston DA et al. (2008). "Pornography use and sexual aggression: the impact of frequency and type of pornography use on recidivism among sexual offenders.". Aggress Behav 34 (34): 1–11. doi:10.1002/ab.20250. PMID 18307171.
  5. Seto, M. C., Cantor, J. M., & Blanchard, R. (2006). Child pornography offenses are a valid diagnostic indicator of pedophilia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 115, U.S.A. 610–615.
  6. Seto, M. C., & Eke, A. W. (2005). The criminal histories and later offending of child pornography offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 17, 201–210.
  7. RYAN C. W. HALL; RICHARD C. W. HALL (2007-04). "A Profile of Pedophilia: Definition, Characteristics of Offenders, Recidivism, Treatment Outcomes, and Forensic Issues" (PDF). Mayo Clin Proc 82 (4): 457–471. doi:10.4065/82.4.457. PMID 17418075. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Julian Sher and Benedict Carey (2007-07-19). "Debate on Child Pornography's Link To Molesting". New York Times.
  9. "Remarks of Arnold I Burns Before the Florida Law Enforcement Committee on Obscenity, Organized Crime and Child Pornography". NCJ 109133. National Institute of Justice. 1987-12-03.
  10. Howitt, Dennis (1995). "Paedophiles and Sexual Offences against Children," chapter 6. Loughborough University, UK; John Wiley & Sons.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 "Study finds no link between child porn and sex abuse".,25197,25779646-26103,00.html.
  12. "From Fantasy to Reality: The Link Between Viewing Child Pornography and Molesting Children". Child Sexual Exploitation Update - Volume 1, Number 3, 2004. Archived from the original on 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
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