Forensic psychologist Karen Franklin writes a thought-provoking blog post about the prevalence and potential dangers of online pornography.
She also writes that those who view child pornography don't pose a high risk of committing contact sexual offenses.
The fact that reported child sexual abuse has continued to plummet in recent years despite the meteoric rise in child pornography argues against any direct causal link between child porn and hands-on offending. But direct research on child porn consumers is tricky, because such people are less than keen to reveal themselves. This has forced researchers to focus on those who have been apprehended, likely skewing data toward the more deviant and criminally-oriented.
Despite this limitation, the cumulative data bring good tidings: Overall, men who have been arrested and/or convicted for child pornography offending pose a very low risk to the public.
Aggregating nine extant studies on reoffense risk using meta-analytic methods, prominent pedophilia researcher Michael Seto and colleagues found that, on average, a man who has been caught with child porn has about a 3.4% chance of committing another non-contact offense. The risk he will actually molest a child is even lower, around 2%.
These extremely low risk levels -- especially for child pornography offenders with no known history of hands-on offending -- is further evidence that much of their misconduct is driven by curiosity and internet-enhanced impulsivity. Once caught, all but the most deviant learn their lesson and apparently refrain from further misconduct.You can read Franklin's post here.