My Partner Views Porn. Is it a Parenting Problem?

Do Parents Who View Porn Present As a Risk to Their Children?

Does your partner view porn? The online world has increasingly contributed to relationship problems and breakdowns. In child custody disputes the issue of a parent’s internet use is also becoming a growing area of concern…but is it a parenting problem?

In 2002, Family Lawyers were surveyed regarding the most common reasons for ‘internet related’ divorces. 68% cited spouses finding new love interests online, 56% reported that a spouse had developed an addictive relationship with pornography, 47% reported that spouses had taken issue with their partner spending excessive amounts of time on the internet, with 33% specifically taking issue with that time being spent in chat rooms (Dedmon, 2002).

Twenty years on from this survey, one could not deny the increasing relevance of internet porn infiltrating relationships and families, potentially leading to the need for education about sexual health and responsible online behaviour.

Your internet porn use, including habits of watching porn, could impact how you are assessed as a suitable parent in a parenting dispute. Professionals, often child psychologists asked to do family reports are often assigned the task of evaluating the impact one parent’s use of online porn, particularly if it includes violent pornography, has on their own parenting capacity and their child’s wellbeing (Black, Dillon, and Carnes, 2003). A parent’s use of online porn is often cited for cause in a child’s sexualized behaviours, especailly if there’s evidence of kids watching porn (Friedrich, 2007).

Typically, it is the spouse who has not engaged in such online activities who will claim the use of this adult content has wrongly exposed the younger children to the material and they have suffered harm as a result of this exposure.

Child custody disputes and a spouse’s use of online porn is however rather uncharted waters, and thus limited research exists about the impact of use of internet pornography and ones capacity to parent. Similarly, the media’s eagerness to categorise online porn as damaging to the family unit is rather unfounded in the research literature (Montgomery-Graham, Kohut, Fisher & Campbell, 2015). This limited research leaves professionals in the dark about how to investigate the existing concerns.

We take a look at what research is available to share some guidance.

Online sexual activity (OSA) can be defined as “the use of the internet for any activity that involves sexuality for the purposes of recreation, entertainment, exploration, support, education, commerce, and efforts to attain and secure sexual or romantic partners” (Cooper & Griffin-Shelley, 2002).

Firstly, the general state of the literature is that there is no consensus on the impacts of internet pornography generally. The casual link between pornography and sex crimes that is often exaggerated but hasn’t been found to exist (Seto, Maric & Barbaree, 2001). To expel another myth, for the majority of men pornography exposure is not associated with extremely high levels of aggression (Malamuth, Addition & Koss, 2000).

Limited research that has been published on the impact of OSA has reported negative outcomes for the family unit. Spouses consuming OSA often reported that they experienced lower sexual interest in their partner and also felt less invested in the relationship (Young, et al. 2002). Men and women often reported different problems as a result of consuming OSA with men often experiencing arousal problems in their relationship and women reported negative self-perception (Daneback, et al., 2009).

In relation to the impact on the family, marriage therapists found almost identical concerns were reported including:

  1. Exposure to cybersex and the objectification of women;
  2. Involvement in parental conflicts;
  3. Lack of attention because one of the spouses involvement with the internet
  4. Parental risk of divorce

(Schnieder, 2003)

A parent’s engagement in OSA does not automatically give rise to a parenting issue. Your parenting capacity becomes an issue when a child is exposed to cyber-sexual material or when the use of OSA creates an environment which exposes a child to inappropriate sexual material.

Parental use of OSA that impacts time and attention given to children and risk the children being exposed to online sexual material is a problem. This is a likely indicator of impaired judgement and parenting by failing to provide appropriate safeguards to protect the children from this type of content. This failure raises questions about a parent’s capacity to provide a safe environment for a child to develop appropriately. If a parent is seen to prioritise OSA it may be seen as creating a hypersexual environment that is harmful to a child and could be seen as a form of neglect and/ or abusive behaviour. This is due to the understanding that “hypersexual parents may contribute to a sexualized home environment. For example, they may misinterpret normative sexual behaviours exhibited by their child, or, conversely, their relationship with their child may become sexualized” (Friedrich, 2007, p.72).

If a psychologist/psychiatrist is assessing you or your spouse’s parenting capacity, they must investigate whether the child’s behaviour is caused by the parent’s OSA, or whether it constitutes a developmentally appropriate expression of sexual exploration, feeling or interest (Johnson, 2005). This assessment can only be made by undertaking an evaluation of the whole family so that OSA in the context of a custody dispute can be understood (Krueger, et al 2013).

If you, or someone you know, is in need of a Melbourne child custody lawyer Rowan Skinner & Associates Lawyers (www.rowanskinnerlegal.com.au) can help. If you would like to discuss your issue with a Melbourne Family Law Specialist, please contact us at our office on 9995 9155.

Finally, you can also check out our blog about family therapy and its importance in family law matters.

References

Black, C., Dillon, D., & Carnes, S. (2003). Disclosure to children: Hearing the child’s experience. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: Journal of Treatment and Prevention, 10 (1), 67-78.

Cooper, A. & Griffin-Shelley, E. (2002). Introduction. The Internet: The next sexual revolution. In A. Cooper (Ed.), Sex and the Internet. A guidebook for clinicians (pp. 1 – 15). New York, NY: Brunner-Routledge.

Dane, K., Traen, B., & Mansson, S.V. (2009). Use of pornography in a random sample of Norwegian heterosexual couples. Archives of Sexual behavior, 38, 746-753.

Dedmon, J. (2002). Is the Internet bad for your marriage? Online affairs, pornographic sites playing greater role in divorces, PR Newswire Association LLC

Friedrich, W. N. (2007). Children with sexual behavior problems: Family-based attachment-focused therapy. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Krueger, R, Weiss, S, Kaplan, M, Braunstein, L, Wiener, E (2013) ‘The Impact of Internet Pornography Use and Cybersexual Behaviour on Child Custody and Visitation’ 10(1) Journal of Child Custody 68.

Monthomery-Graham, S., Kohut, T., Fisher, W., and Campbell, L. (2015). How the popular media rushes to judgement about pornography and relationships while research lags behind. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 24(3), 243-256.

Seto, M, Maric, A, Barabaree, H. E (2001). The role of pornography in the etiology of sexual aggression. Aggression and Violent Behaviour, 6(1), 35-53.

 

 

 

Rowan Skinner

About Rowan Skinner

Rowan Skinner is a highly skilled family lawyer with over 35 years of experience across various legal roles and jurisdictions. Rowan specialises in resolving family law disputes such as divorce, financial settlements, child custody and domestic violence cases. Through his diverse and extensive experience, Rowan has a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances involved in family law. Rowan is a skilled negotiator and litigator who follows a compassionate and client-focused approach which prioritises helping you navigate what can be an emotional and challenging time.