Pedophilia 797
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Pedophilia is a paraphilia that involves an abnormal interest in children. A paraphilia is a disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies generally involving: nonhuman objects; the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner (not merely simulated); or animals, children, or other nonconsenting persons. Pedophilia is also a psychosexual disorder in which the fantasy or actual act of engaging in sexual activity with prepubertal children is the preferred or exclusive means of achieving sexual excitement and gratification. It may be directed toward children of the same sex or children of the other sex. Some pedophiles are attracted to both boys and girls. Some are attracted only to children, while others are attracted to adults as well as to children.

Pedophilia is defined by mental health professionals as a mental disorder, but the American legal system defines acting on a pedophilic urge as a criminal act.


The focus of pedophilia is sexual activity with a child. Many courts interpret this reference to age to mean children under the age of 18. Most mental health professionals, however, confine the definition of pedophilia to sexual activity with prepubescent children, who are generally age 13 or younger. The term ephebophilia , derived from the Greek word for "youth," is sometimes used to describe sexual interest in young people in the first stages of puberty.

The sexual behaviors involved in pedophilia cover a range of activities and may or may not involve the use of force. Some pedophiles limit their behaviors to exposing themselves or masturbating in front of the child, or fondling or undressing the child, but without genital contact. Others, however, compel the child to participate in oral sex or full genital intercourse.

The most common overt aspect of pedophilia is an intense interest in children. There is no typical pedophile. Pedophiles may be young or old, male or female, although the great majority are males. Unfortunately, some pedophiles are professionals who are entrusted with educating or maintaining the health and well-being of young persons, while others are entrusted with children to whom they are related by blood or marriage.

Causes and symptoms


A variety of different theories exist as to the causes of pedophilia. A few researchers attribute pedophilia along with the other paraphilias to biology. They hold that testosterone, one of the male sex hormones, predisposes men to develop deviant sexual behaviors. As far as genetic factors are concerned, as of 2002 no researchers have claimed to have discovered or mapped a gene for pedophilia.

Most experts regard pedophilia as resulting from psychosocial factors rather than biological characteristics. Some think that pedophilia is the result of having been sexually abused as a child. Still others think that it derives from the person's interactions with parents during their early years of life. Some researchers attribute pedophilia to arrested emotional development; that is, the pedophile is attracted to children because he or she has never matured psychologically. Some regard pedophilia as the result of a distorted need to dominate a sexual partner. Since children are smaller and usually weaker than adults, they may be regarded as nonthreatening potential partners. This drive for domination is sometimes thought to explain why most pedophiles are males.


A pedophile is often very attractive to the children who are potential victims. Potential pedophiles may volunteer their services to athletic teams, Scout troops, or religious or civic organizations that serve youth. In some cases, pedophiles who are attracted to children within their extended family may offer to baby-sit for their relatives. They often have good interpersonal skills with children and can easily gain the children's trust.

Some pedophiles offer rationalizations or excuses that enable them to avoid assuming responsibility for their actions. They may blame the children for being too attractive or sexually provocative. They may also maintain that they are "teaching" the child about "the facts of life" or "love"; this rationalization is frequently offered by pedophiles who have molested children related to them. All these rationalizations may be found in pornography with pedophilic themes.


Pedophilia is one of the more common paraphilias; the large worldwide market for child pornography suggests that it is more frequent in the general population than prison statistics would indicate. Together with voyeurism and exhibitionism , pedophilia is one of the three paraphilias most commonly leading to arrest by the police.

The onset of pedophilia usually occurs during adolescence. Occasional pedophiles begin their activities during middle age but this late onset is uncommon. In the United States, about 50% of men arrested for pedophilia are married.

The frequency of behavior associated with pedophilia varies with psychosocial stress . As the pedophile's stress levels increase, the frequency of his or her acting out generally rises also.

Pedophilia is more common among males than among females. In addition, the rate of recidivism for persons with a pedophilic preference for males is approximately twice that of pedophiles who prefer females.

Little is known about the incidence of pedophilia in different racial or ethnic groups.


According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , fourth edition text revised, the following criteria must be met to establish a diagnosis of pedophilia.

  • Over a period of at least six months, the affected person experiences recurrent, intense and sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges or actual behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children aged 13 or younger.
  • The fantasies, sexual urges or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of daily functioning.
  • The affected person must be at least age sixteen and be at least five years older than the child or children who are the objects or targets of attention or sexual activity.

A diagnosis of pedophilia cannot be assigned to an individual in late adolescence (age 17 to 19) who is involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old person.

In establishing a diagnosis of pedophilia, it is important for a mental health professional to determine if the patient is attracted to males, females or both. It is also important to determine whether incest is a factor in the relationship. Finally, the doctor must determine whether the pedophilia is exclusive or nonexclusive; that is, whether the patient is attracted only to children (exclusive pedophilia) or to adults as well as to children (nonexclusive pedophilia).

One difficulty with the diagnosis of the disorder is that persons with pedophilia rarely seek help voluntarily from mental health professionals. Instead, counseling and treatment is often the result of a court order. An interview that establishes the criteria for diagnosis listed above may be enough to diagnose the condition, or surveillance or Internet records obtained through the criminal investigation may also be used.

An additional complication in diagnosis is that the paraphilias as a group have a high rate of comorbidity with one another and an equally high rate of comorbidity with major depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse disorders. A person diagnosed with pedophilia may also meet the criteria for exhibitionism or for a substance abuse or mood disorder.


In the earliest stages of behavior modification therapy, pedophiles may be narrowly viewed as being attracted to inappropriate persons. Such aversive stimuli as electric shocks have been administered to persons undergoing therapy for pedophilia. This approach has not been very successful.

In 2002, the most common form of treatment for pedophilia is psychotherapy , often of many years' duration. It does not have a high rate of success in inducing pedophiles to change their behavior.

Pedophilia may also be treated with medications. The three classes of medications most often used to treat pedophilia (and other paraphilias) are: female hormones, particularly medroxyprogesterone acetate, or MPA; luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) agonists, which include such drugs as triptorelin (Trelstar), leuprolide acetate, and goserelin acetate; and anti-androgens, which block the uptake and metabolism of testosterone as well as reducing blood levels of this hormone. Most clinical studies of these drugs have been done in Germany, where the legal system has allowed their use in treating repeat sexual offenders since the 1970s. The anti-androgens in particular have been shown to be effective in reducing the rate of recidivism.

Surgical castration is sometimes offered as a treatment to pedophiles who are repeat offenders or who have pleaded guilty to violent rape.

Increasingly, pedophiles are being prosecuted under criminal statutes and being sentenced to prison terms. Imprisonment removes them from society for a period of time but does not usually remove their pedophilic tendencies. In 2002, many states have begun to publish the names of persons being released from prison after serving time for pedophilia. Legal challenges to this practice are pending in various jurisdictions.


The prognosis of successfully ending pedophilic habits among persons who practice pedophilia is not favorable. Pedophiles have a high rate of recidivism; that is, they tend to repeat their acts often over time.

The rate of prosecution for pedophiles through the criminal justice system has increased in recent years. Pedophiles are at high risk of being beaten or killed by other prison inmates. For this reason, they must often be kept isolated from other members of a prison population. Knowledge of the likelihood of abuse by prison personnel and inmates is not, however, an effective deterrent for most pedophiles.


The main method for preventing pedophilia is avoiding situations that may promote pedophilic acts. Children should never be allowed to in one-on-one situations with any adult other than their parents or trustworthy family members. Having another youth or adult as an observer provides some security for all concerned. Conferences and other activities can be conducted so as to provide privacy while still within sight of others.

Children should be taught to yell or run if they are faced with an uncomfortable situation. They should also be taught that it is acceptable to scream or call for help in such situations.

Another basis of preventing pedophilia is education. Children must be taught to avoid situations that make them vulnerable to pedophiles. Adults who work with youth must be taught to avoid situations that may be construed as promoting pedophilia.

Many states have adopted legislation that requires periodic background investigations of any adult who works with children. These persons may be paid, such as teachers, or they may be volunteers in a youth-serving organization.

The Boy Scouts of America has tried to address the problem of pedophilia by creating a training program that is required for all adults in the organization. All applications for volunteers are reviewed and approved by several persons. Adults and youth are required to use separate facilities on all activities. Secret meetings and one-on-one interactions between adults and youth are prohibited. This program has received several national awards.

See also Abuse ; Aversion therapy



American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth edition, text revised. Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.

Gelder, Michael, Richard Mayou, and Philip Cowen. Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wilson, Josephine F. Biological Foundations of Human Behavior. New York: Harcourt, 2002.


Berlin, F. S. "Treatments to change sexual orientation." American Journal of Psychiatry 157, no. 5 (2000): 838-839.

Cohen, L. J., and others. "Impulsive personality traits in male pedophiles versus healthy controls: Is pedophilia an impulsive-aggressive disorder?" Comprehensive Psychiatry 43, no. 2 (2002): 127-134.

Hill, S. A. "The man who claimed to be a paedophile." Journal of Medical Ethics 26, no. 2 (2000): 137-138.

O'Donohue, W., L. G. Regev, and A. Hagstrom. "Problems with the DSM-IV diagnosis of pedophilia. " Sexual Abuse 12, no. 2 (2000): 95-105.


American Academy of Family Physicians. 11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway, Leawood, KS 66211-2672. Phone: (913) 906-6000. Web site: <> .

American Academy of Pediatrics. 141 Northwest Point Boulevard, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098. Telephone: (847) 434-4000. Fax: (847) 434-8000. Web site: <> .

American Medical Association. 515 N. State Street, Chicago, IL 60610. Telephone: (312) 464-5000. Web site: <> .

American Psychiatric Association. 1400 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. Telephone: (888) 357-7924. Fax:(202) 682-6850.

American Psychological Association. 750 First Street NW, Washington, DC, 20002-4242. Phone: (800) 374-2721 or(202) 336-5500. Web site: <> .

L. Fleming Fallon, Jr., M.D., Dr.P.H.

User Contributions:

The reason that pedophilia is a mental illness but homosexuality is not is that the field of psychology is based on relativism. Yeah, it's a bad way to study human behavior, but it's not going to change any time soon.

For example: I'm not a pedophile because I'm not bothered by my urges. Does that make any sense? No. Thanks, psychology.
John R. Groves
I just stumbled across your brief message on a site that describes pedophilia. I believe that there probably isn't so much a malformation of the frontal lobes as the probability that pedophilia is in reality a naturally occurring sexuality, that in many ways has fallen from grace.

Sexuality is never chosen by any individual, but instead a discovery at puberty. For many this discovery is appealing, whereas for at least 10% the discovery is worrisome, leading eventually to depression, anxiety and isolation.

Those who find themselves pedophilic are not always aware at the onset. As the age of discovery, at puberty, generally isn't old enough to see the preference for what it is. As the child matures and begins to see a greater distance in age between preferred erotic appeals, the problems begin.

Once the onset becomes disturbing to the individual they are aware that their only sanctuary is personal darkness. In our society there is no place to turn without risk of criminalization. In interviews with the majority of pedosexual individuals it is common for them to express two major notions, isolation and hiding in a much less preferred erotic situation.

The common ideation that this paraphilia is a product of nurture really presses on credibility. What secret from of influence, either familial or public has the ability to encode this type of behavior? If this were possible, then it should be studied as a powerful method of learning?

Somehow, and there is essentially no research on this, the genetic processes must be in effect. Much the same as any nature occurring in humans. Of the 6,000,000,000 individuals on this planet, no two are identical. Even normal sexuality has acceptable boundaries that make them unique to each individual. What we are sexually is never a choice but an expression of some genetic mechanism that is later discovered as the individual matures.

One thing that is common in interviews of persons in terms of sexuality is that they are at odds to really know why they are the way they are. This is especially true of everyone “dark side” which is rarely discussed. The dark side may be an expression of their unique sexuality, which again has to be ingrained (wired), otherwise why can’t they blame it on nurture?

Above your comments are others that I agree upon. Much harm and suffering is heaped on persons I call afflicted. An afflicted person is one who suffers from a sexuality that has been deemed deviant or even evil. An afflicted person is the terrible victim of genetic occurrences that are well established before birth.

I have yet to hear a rational explanation why anyone would place himself or herself in harms way through sexual impropriety. Especially those that seem to be universally evil! Even greater interests are the huge variety of sexual activities among adults seen as acceptable. Why is this so?

I hope the very best for your interest and research to discover the truth. Frankly I believe the truth is well understood and simply suppressed, to allow the Draconian policies arrayed against afflicted persons. A strong case smashing myths would help countless men and women who are currently living lives of fear, shame and guilt. One area that fascinates me is the hypo campus (sic). I’m not trained in this field, but have occasionally read some interesting research on this little understood part of the brain. Maybe it’s affected by the genetic codes, that is, not in itself being the cause of so-called deviations. If I were to compress my beliefs, I would have to say, genetics rules, from the dawn of man (primal) to modern. Unfortunately it seems at least some of our sexuality today is really quite primal…

John R. Groves
J. Mathox
I agree with you John. Knowing the true roots of pedophilia would help lots of people. This can only be achieved by means of research. My major is biotechnology and I'm interested in the field of genetics. In the near future, I plan to do research on the genetic and biological bases of pedophilia. This, however, won't be easy, mainly due to the lack of funding. But pedophilia is an issue that cannot be ignored. People and governments will sooner or later have to admit that something has to be done now! People who suffer from pedophilia have the right to lead happy lives, and children must enjoy safety as well. However, society keeps on building barriers. This situation can't go on, there are far too many people suffering (both children and adults).
I have not committed myself in any illegal activity against children, as far as I know I am 100% clean; but I do have a firmly tendency to look at little girls from 8 to 13 YO...I have been looking for help; but I am always afraid to admitted to anyone, because on the web and on the streets I have seen and heard very rude and threatening comments about people with this problem, I am attracted to regular adults as well...

What I have noticed is that some of my friends and a lot of men do look at young teens or even little girls (9-11) that have a more mature skeleton (body), but clearly show their real age. What makes me think that the P problem is weight bigger and really needs to be addressed clinically before courts. I am desperado for help; if my personal info could be protected I will volunteer for any serious study in the matter. in the mind-time I will not confess this malfunctioning of my brain to anyone...It seems like the world is full of crap when they express hate for people like me, pretending I and a few have this conflict; the fact is there's millions of us, I almost can guaranty 1 of every 10 men around the world have this P thing at different degrees; some more-some less, believe or not!

for obvious reasons the provided email is not related to me...I stole it, please don't follow anyone with this email.
Continued from above- I think we have the whole idea of sexuality wrong, with regards to trying to hide it from our children. As an example, In Japan, they are raised in a school setting where the children all shower together and use the same bathroom facilities. There is no mystery or secrecy of their sexual differences. As a result, the rate of sex crimes is virtually non existent. Instead of raising children shielded from the knowledge of their sexual outcomes, I think it necessary to keep in mind that we are out to raise children with a healthy view of themselves in all regards. Mentally and physically. Our goal should be to raise our children with the idea that we are raising them to be well balanced adults, not to shield them from sexuality, which is a natural psychological and physical outcome. I am repeating myself there, but I cannot emphasis this enough. The rate of pedophilia in the US and other countries is now startling, in part due to lack of setting ground rules(parental openness and education), and in part easy access of such materials over the internet. We must do something to intervene, and I feel a ground up education of open sexuality would resolve the pedophilia problem to a large degree.
Although this has nothing to do with the other, I would like to be offered help without the fear of being prosecuted for admitting this taboo. I cannot even give my real name, location except county for fear of hate mail or harassment. One must remember that I WAS ABUSED, but I STOPPED THERE!- I WOULD NEVER CROSS THAT LINE - I WILL NOT BECOME AN ABUSER, because as that innocent child I understood what the pain is like, but the fact I look at Child Pornography pictures does not excuse my bad behavior.

I was once caught viewing (young boys) porn material and was threatened with being reported to the police if it happened again - because of this it was time to confess my horrific story. I did bring this up with my counceller when I was doing for session for bereavement and I admitted and agreed it was wrong, It took me quite a while to try a resists my urges but I succeeded, but every now and then I relapse. Although it bare 52 weeks since I had those sessions it early days.

I agree with Nate that we need help but with absolute confidentiality, no record must be linked to the authorities nor should I be placed on the Child Sex Offenders Register. I KNOW IN MY OWN MIND I am not at risk. I had babysitted my nephew and niece many times over the years and I had told my brother and sister in law of what happened at school.

If one is genuine, what help like me is and knows they will not harm anyone; they need access to appropriate help and at the same time not banned for being in contact or working with children. I understand that from a normal person point of view I could be a risk and that risk is not work taking at any cost and to be honest I agree if I was that person, but there are two sides to this topic and if somebody like me needs help they should be able to reach out for it in absolute confidentiality and that records are eventually destroyed once the treatment/recover programme has completed.

We need trusts on both sides. The situation would be different if I had committed an offence of putting my desire against any child (abuse) or adult (rape), but in my case I have not and now I am a mature young man I now seek the help to help close this horrific chapter of my life.

I agree with Nate above.
As a child I was once put in an unpleasant situation of being blackmailed to aganist my will or to be grassed up for doing something so trivial; at the time the crime that the offender was at least four years older than me and as a small child, I was so frightened that I would get into trouble (i.e. early bed for a week) that I had to proceed.
The Offender never put me in that situation again and I did not dare tell anyone because who would believe me, in 1983/4 at a residential boarding school these sorts of things went on and were never reported; I was so ashamed I could not tell my parents.

It took me 22 years before I could tell my late mother; The problem is that because of this horrid crime, I then found out that at the age of 21 I seemed to find feel att. to b. . At that, time it was clothes b. circ age 13, which is eight years, my junior. As I could not seek help, be offer counseling or whatever would help me I had to keep this sad but dark secret to myself. I could not tell my own GP out of fear of being reported to the authorities. Here in the UK, there is no such help and I would be happy to undergo a therapy treatment programme. I am shy to woman and although I started dating it, very hard to keep motivated.
I need more information on this subject. My husband of 23 years was under a doctors care for testosterone (which he took a lot of) and a bunch of other drugs to deal with other issues and recently began to seek out child pornography -- was caught by the feds and now rather than treating the condition, which includes no libido, frontal lobe seizures, hypothyroid, and an immune disorder, is being thrown to the wolves for his seeking out this material. How does one find an advocate for this issue and how do you convince others he can be helped? They are saying he will get 20 years which will make him 65 before we get to be with him again. Simply tragic.
If I read this right - under the demographic paragraph - males are more likely to be pedophiles than females and that the preference for male victims is about double that for females, then am I correct in assuming pedophiles are more likely to be homosexual than hetersexual? Not trying to make a value judgement here but if that is the case the rate of pedophilia must be much higher amonst male homosexuals than any other demographic group, on a percentage basis. I am assuming that heterosexual males prefer female children as their victims. How accurate is my logic here and is there something I am overlooking? Finding the answers here could help in focusing limited resources to the problem.
John, with respect, seeking to intellectually excuse this abnormality by redefining it as "normal" only makes the problem worse. Some people have a mental condition predisposing them to murder. Do we just say they are normal, and society has "imposed" a view of abnormality on them? Some people have severe anger issues, leading to various abuses of others -- again should we just put this off as normal for the angry person?

No indeed! Only by recognizing the abnormal can we treat it. Scientifically speaking, homosexuality is abnormal (take a scientific approach and you will find reams of information confirming this, as well as demonstrating the harmful impact to the homosexual person). But society has deemed homosexuality as the "new normal" and declared they do not need help.

We now have a group of people attempting to define pedophilia in the same light -- "normal". But unlike homosexuality, this abnormal condition impacts more than the affected individual. It impacts others -- the most vulnerable in our society. For the sake of our kids, as well as the hope of helping pedophiles, we must stand firm behind science and reject the idea that pedophilia is a normal sexual preference.

For the idiots who will automatically say this is a "hate" post because they happen to disagree...well, you are the haters not me. I believe everybody should have the chance to live the most productive and enjoyable life possible. Not a life molded to society norms, but certainly molded to healthy mental conditions.
The human mind is prone to fantasy. Society is prone to compromise of all acceptable behavior within itself. Every mind,in spite of that, has the option to comply with the general thinking or not. What is perceived by the masses in public, is not always necessarily the thinking of the mind in private. To deviate from the decided laws of society puts the individual who acts against those laws, subject to punishment. Many consider fellatio, masturbation, anal penetration heterosexual or homosexual activities for pleasure to be deviate from the actual intent of genitalia to be used only to procreate. We want to protect our children from our own wanton acts until the age of consent allows them to decide when and what for themselves. The people who jump the gun are rapists and pedophiles. By establishing governing laws, we can separate ourselves from those selfish opportunists and label them criminals and incarcerate them for the rest of their lives. For, they are guilty of acting out their urges rather than refraining as many others do with their fantasies. The perils and pleasure of Fantasy besets us all.If one says otherwise, they are a liar or a fool.
Paul J Gorman
Marv: Your question about sexual preferences for hetero- vs homosexual pedophiles arises in a lot of sensible people. I am a straight PhD Research Psychologist and live in San Francisco where I have gotten to know a number of gay men. They vehemently reject the notion that pedophilia is a form of homosexuality, despite the statistics. Obviously the majority of homosexuals of either gender prefer consenting adults as partners and consider preying on children reprehensible in the extreme. In my opinion the two are distinct.
George Spelvin
Hello, Sally!

Here are some studies which show that child porno viewers are unlikely to be child molesters and child molesters are unlikely to be child porno viewers:

Babchishin, K. M., Hanson, R. K., & VanZuylen, H. 2015. Online child pornography offenders are different: A meta-analysis of the characteristics of online and offline sex offenders against children. Archives of Sexual Behavior 44: 45–66.

Bates, A. & Metcalf, C. 2007. A psychometric comparison of internet and non-internet sex offenders from a community treatment sample. Journal of Sexual Aggression 13: 11-20.

Elliott, I. A.; Beech, A. R.; Mandeville-Norden, R.; & Hayes, E. 2009. Psychological profiles of Internet sexual offenders: Comparison with contact sexual offenders. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment 21: 76-92.

I hope this helps.

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