According to a study, watching child pornography does not alone lead a person to commit a sex offence in future.
For the research, the scientists studied 231 men convicted of consuming child pornography in 2002.
It was found that only 1 percent had gone on to commit a hands-on sex offence in the following six years.
Frank Urbaniok from the Canton of Zurich Department of Justice, Switzerland, worked with a team of researchers to investigate these consumers.
"When investigating the prevalence of internet child pornography consumption, an important practical question is whether consumers of child pornography pose a risk for hands-on sex offenses. 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 offenses were quite low," he said.
The researchers could corroborate that the offenders were well educated, and that most of them consumed other types of illegal pornography as well, such as pornography depicting sexual acts with animals, excrement, or involving brutality.
Urbaniok said: "Due to the widespread use of the internet, child pornography consumers today may differ from our sample in some socio-economic aspects, such as in the level of education or level of income. Nevertheless, there are two relevant and practical findings that seem to be robust: For consumers of child pornography without a criminal history, the prognosis for hands-on sex offenses and for recidivism with child pornography is favourable."
The study has been published in the open access journal BMC Psychiatry.