Adverse childhood experiences in persons with excessive and destructive online behaviour


Despite the widespread use of online sexual material in the general population, the overlap of deviant use of online sexual material (child sexual abusive material) with other types of online sex and gaming addictions has remained controversial. The purpose of this study is to determine, how users of child sexual abusive material (CSAM) differ from persons consulting for problematic online sex and for gaming (sociodemographic details, Internet use patterns, adverse childhood experiences). We assessed online addiction criteria and adverse childhood experiences in 479 consecutive patients (57 CSAM, 67 users of online sexual material, 355 online gamers) by standardized self-report questionnaires (AICA, CTS). Patients presenting with CSAM consumption were well-educated, socially and professionally integrated middle-aged men. While the quantity of Internet use was less excessive compared to users of online sexual material and online gamers, their average online use was mostly addictive and disruptive regarding partnership or family. They reported significantly higher rates of own experiences of sexual childhood abuse and emotional neglect compared to gamers. Better understanding of CSAM consumption in the context of online addictions is a prerequisite for developing specific therapeutic approaches. These need to consider addictive behavior as well as sustained childhood adversities, which might lead to these maladaptive coping strategies.

Bibliographic citation

Marx, C. M., Müller, K. W., & Beutel, M. E. (2021). Adverse childhood experiences in persons with excessive and destructive online behaviour. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 15(3), Article 5. doi:


Online sex; child sexual abusive material; gaming; childhood maltreatment; behavioral addiction

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