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About Pedophilia

There is no doubt you have read an article discussing pedophilia in some form or another. Unfortunately, most media articles discussing pedophilia contain false information. Even psychology blogs are not immune to misinformation. Some of the myths these articles may leave you with are:

 

  • Pedophilia is sexually abusing a child
  • Pedophilia is a psychotic condition
  • Pedophilia makes people molest children
  • Pedophilia can be convicted in a court of law
  • Pedophilia is evil

 

  • All people who sexually abuse children are pedophiles
  • Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to children of any age
  • Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder
  • Pedophilia is a disease that can be cured
  • Pedophiles are a danger to children

Pedophilia is a term that has a lot of baggage, as does the term pedophile. Because people, the media, and even researchers and governments use these terms improperly, there is some dispute as to how they should be defined. This site uses the understanding of pedophilia and pedophiles that comes from sexology and academia. For a brief overview of several statistics around pedophilia and why they matter, see here.


Terminology Distinctions

 

Pedophilia is a heavily stigmatized term, as is the term “pedophile.” Pedophilia is best understood as the sexual attraction to children who have not yet hit puberty[1], while hebephilia is the sexual attraction to children who are in the midst of puberty[2] and ephebophilia is the sexual attraction to children who have finished puberty[3]. Attractions to age groups are less about specific age than they are about the body type of the people found attractive. Someone is not technically considered a pedophile unless they have pedophilia, not hebephilia or ephebophilia, though these technicalities are not usually paid close attention to.

 

Sometimes, people refer to those attracted to children as Minor Attracted Persons, or MAPs as an umbrella term started by the organization B4UACT. Many times, even experts lump all sexual attraction to children into just being "pedophilia” to simplify public understanding. There is research literature[4]  and expert consensus that there exists many “non-offending” pedophiles, or pedophiles who do not sexually abuse children.

 
Pedophilia Is Not Synonymous With Child Sexual Abuse

 

While that information may be difficult to believe, it comes from several research sources. One study showed that one-third of sexual abusers of children have pedophilia while two-thirds do not and that 60% of CSEM offenders have pedophilia (more research is needed on CSEM and pedophilia)[5], a Dutch study (p. 65-66) found that 20% of sexual abusers of children have minor attraction (not just pedophilia)[6]. Another study of 146 men who sexually abused children found that 16.2% had pedophilia[7]. The statement of former FBI supervisory special agent Kenneth Lanning[8] also confirms these ideas. While determining precise numbers is difficult due to underreporting and quibbling over how sexual abuse is defined, it is clear that a significant number of sexual crimes against children are perpetrated by someone with a sexual attraction to children, while most are not. The motivations for someone sexually abusing a child vary widely just among juveniles who sexually abuse children (35.6% of abuse), and the motivations for adults are likewise varied and complex. 

 

Pedophilia And Pedophiles According To Diagnostic Manuals

 

According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition), pedophilic disorder is separate from pedophilia[9] and the early release of the ICD-11 agrees[10]. Meanwhile, the ICD-10[11] defined pedophilia as, “A sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of prepubertal or early pubertal age.” In other words, unless someone is distressed by having pedophilia (the attraction), they do not have a mental illness.

 

According to the early release ICD-11[12], pedophilic disorder (not pedophilia itself) is considered a paraphilic disorder, which is someone with an atypical pattern of sexual arousal towards people who are unwilling or unable to consent and either acts on those attractions in a harmful way, or feels distressed by having those attractions.

 

Pedophilia According To Current Research

 

Current research around pedophilia is dominated by studies done primarily on forensic populations of pedophiles (those who have harmed children), though there is some preliminary research that has been done on non-forensic populations of pedophiles (those who have not harmed children).

 

One of the most basic ideas that the public latches onto is that pedophilia can be changed through therapy, or that someone can become a non-pedophile by seeking a qualified therapist. However, there is no reliable research to support this claim and current scientific consensus is that pedophilia has no way of changing[13].

 

In fact, current research points to the fact that pedophilia is a sexual orientation[14], which means that it develops during puberty, persists over time, and has no way of changing. It does not imply that abusing children is acceptable, since sexual attraction is different from behavior.

 

On the public’s acceptance of pedophilia being a sexual orientation, researchers note that, “Opposing the extension of the term “sexual orientation” to pedohebephilia may be politically understandable, but scientifically persuasive arguments are lacking. Furthermore, such opposition is unnecessary. Homosexual people do not deserve equal rights merely because their defining difference is a sexual orientation. Their rights depend on the fact that enacting their sexual orientations is both important for their wellbeing and not harmful to others. Most people believe that sex between a child and an adult is harmful to the child and in any case, wrong. These attitudes and beliefs do not depend on whether pedohebephilia is a sexual orientation.[15]

 

Stigma And Public Perception

 

The stigma that pedophiles face (being discriminated against, stereotyped, and receiving prejudice or treated differently for being part of a specific group) is well-documented, and though they need improving upon[16], we do have some information about what this stigma does. One effect of stigma towards pedophilia is that the public perceives it to be the sexual abuse of a child, rather than the sexual attraction to children, which causes a high degree of discrimination. This has a negative impact on mental health and the likelihood that pedophiles will seek out therapy when needed[17].

 

The same source (p. 174) revealed several concepts that the public believes about the causes of pedophilia: Early childhood trauma, stuffed emotions, lack of guidance, and biology. The public believes that therapy, external control (such as religion or medication), and internal control (willpower) can change pedophilia. Most of the public (68%) believes that pedophiles partake in a variety of sexual activities with children, and most believe that pedophiles are mad or evil. At the same time, most believe the media has created a pedophile witch hunt (58%), which is supported by other research which shows that sexual crime rates are inflated 9 times their actual rate in the UK[18].

 

This is just a very small sampling of the stigma research. For a wider sample, see this sheet of quotations from seven research studies.



[ 1] Wikipedia: Pedophilia

[ 2] Wikipedia: Hebephilia

[ 3] Wikipedia: Ephebophilia

[4] Cantor, James M., and Ian V. McPhail. “Non-Offending Pedophiles.” Current Sexual Health Reports 8, no. 3 (September 2016): 121–28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-016-0076-z.

Jahnke, Sara. “The Stigma of Pedophilia: Clinical and Forensic Implications.” European Psychologist 23, no. 2 (April 2018): 144–53. https://doi.org/10.1027/1016-9040/a000325.

[5] Seto, Michael C., James M. Cantor, and Ray Blanchard. “Child Pornography Offenses Are a Valid Diagnostic Indicator of Pedophilia.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 115, no. 3 (2006): 610–15. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.115.3.610.

[6] “On Solid Ground: Tackling Sexual Violence against Children in the Netherlands.” National Rapportur on Trafficking in Human Beings, 2014. https://www.dutchrapporteur.nl/Publications/OnsolidgroundTacklingsexualviolenceagainstchildrenintheNetherlands/index.aspx.

[7] Kesicky, D., I. Andre, and M. Kesicka. “EPA-0284 – Pedophiles and (or) Child Molesters.” European Psychiatry 29 (2014): 1. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0924-9338(14)77731-4.

[8] Lanning, Kenneth V. “Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis.” National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Federal Bureau of Investigation, December 1992.

[9] American Psychiatric Association, and American Psychiatric Association, eds. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. 5th ed: 697-700 Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

[10] https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http://id.who.int/icd/entity/517058174

[11] https://icd.who.int/browse10/2016/en#/F65.4

[12] https://icd.who.int/browse11/l-m/en#/http%3a%2f%2fid.who.int%2ficd%2fentity%2f2110604642

[13] Cantor, James M., and Ian V. McPhail. “Non-Offending Pedophiles.” Current Sexual Health Reports 8, no. 3 (September 2016): 122. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-016-0076-z.

Cantor, James M. “Can Pedophiles Change?” Current Sexual Health Reports 10, no. 4 (December 2018): 203–6. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-018-0165-2.

[14] Berlin, Fred S. “Pedophilia and DSM-5: The Importance of Clearly Defining the Nature of a Pedophilic Disorder.” The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 42 (2014): 404–405.

Bailey, Michael J., Paula A. Bernhard, and Kevin J. Hsu. “An Internet Study of Men Sexually Attracted to Children: Sexual Attraction Patterns.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 125, no. 7 (2016): 983-986. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000212.

Seto, Michael C. “Is Pedophilia a Sexual Orientation?” Archives of Sexual Behavior 41, no. 1 (February 2012): 231–36. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-011-9882-6.

[15] Bailey, Michael J., Paula A. Bernhard, and Kevin J. Hsu. “An Internet Study of Men Sexually Attracted to Children: Sexual Attraction Patterns.” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 125, no. 7 (2016): 986. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000212.

[16] Jahnke, Sara, and Juergen Hoyer. “Stigmatization of People With Pedophilia: A Blind Spot in Stigma Research.” International Journal of Sexual Health 25, no. 3 (July 2013): 169. https://doi.org/10.1080/19317611.2013.795921.

[17] Jahnke, Sara, and Juergen Hoyer. “Stigmatization of People With Pedophilia: A Blind Spot in Stigma Research.” International Journal of Sexual Health 25, no. 3 (July 2013): 171. https://doi.org/10.1080/19317611.2013.795921.

[18] Harper, Craig A., and Todd E. Hogue. “The Emotional Representation of Sexual Crime in the National British Press.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology 34, no. 1 (January 2015): 3–24. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X14544474.

A Word About The Three Sections

Each of the sections below contains lists of additional resources where you can find more information about pedophilia. Many media articles, child sexual abuse advocates, and other sources will attempt to give you information about pedophiles. The research in the "research" section below are studies I have personally read and know that the methodology for their research is sound, that the research has been reviewed by other professionals in their field, and that many sources cite the research in question. I also check to see if there are similar studies that can reproduce the results of the study in question (replication). Why do I review the research before putting it into that section? That is because not all research is conducted correctly. 


One outstanding example of this is a study conducted by Gene Abel. There are numerous methodological errors he makes in order to conduct his study, such as conducting it via survey rather than actually testing the participants and verifying that they are responding to the survey truthfully (many studies since have put the number of child molesters truthfully claiming to have been abused at 30-40%, not 57% as he claims), defining pedophilia in such a way that it is synonymous with child sexual abuse (and then concluding that most abusers "have pedophilia" based on that definition), and the age of the study today (studies done since have not replicated his findings). Even a layperson could read his study and realize that how he went about getting his information, and the conclusions he makes, are questionable. That is why I reviewed each study before including it.


The articles are from a variety of sources and contain a variety of statistics and general information about pedophilia, more for discussion purposes than for factual content. The videos and podcasts included below are likewise from a variety of sources and are more for discussion purposes than for factual content. 


Why is including this information important? Essentially the less we talk about issues related to sex crime, the more we ignore its existence, thereby enabling it to occur. An aware community is less vulnerable to sexual crimes, not because they are aware of pedophiles in the community, but because they are aware of the facts around how sex crimes happen and take appropriate measures to prevent them.


For a more exhaustive list of resources related to pedophilia, please visit Virtuous Pedophiles. The final resource "Prevalence of Abusers" is an illustrative exercise to show how uncommon it is for a pedophile to commit a sexual crime.