The word pedophilia originates from the Greek words paidos, meaning child, and philia, meaning love. A pedophile is characterized by sexual attraction to and maybe love for children. The first scientist to use the concept was the German sexologist and physician Richard Krafft-Ebing. In his monograph Psychopatia Sexualis, published in 1886, he defined pedophilia as a psychosexual perversion, open to cure. This was in sharp contrast to the prevailing religious and moral judgment on sexual relations between adults and children. To Krafft-Ebing, pedophilia could be caused by senility or other mental deficiencies. Around 1906, his British counterpart Havelock Ellis presented pedophilia as an extreme version of normal masculine sexuality. Currently, pedophilia is understood as a divergence of personality, caused by psychological damage in early childhood. This concept was rarely used in English before the 1950s.

It is generally believed that pedophiles vary as much as any other group of human beings. The majority consists of men, who seek contact with children, mainly boys, in early puberty. Some wish to stimulate the child, some seek mutual

stimulation, and others want to have intercourse with the child. A minority, who get most of the press coverage, are fascinated by sadistic elements in their relation to children, as was the case among a group of pedophiles in Holland and Belgium who were discovered during the 1990s in a widely publicized case.

Until relatively recently, pedophiles had fairly easy access to children, who were left largely unattended by parents. During the last two decades of the twentieth century, growing attention to the phenomenon has made it more difficult for pedophiles to act out their sexual urges. This is why easy access to child pornography and chat rooms on the Internet play such a prominent role in stimulating the fantasies of pedophiles and, probably, alleviating the desire for more aggressive behavior.

The first British and American surveys of sexual child abuse date from the 1920s. More substantial surveys were conducted from the 1950s on, with the Kinsey Reports taking the lead. A comparative study of Anglo-American surveys covering the years 1940 though 1990 showed no noticeable change in the prevalence of abuse of girls younger than fourteen. Between 10 and 12 percent are thought to have been sexually abused. There are no comparable figures for boys. The surveys of the 1990s produced highly contradictory data, which vary depending on differences in study populations and design. The number of college students who claim to have been sexually abused as children varies from 15 to 30 percent. Of these, only five or six percent mention that they have experienced intercourse during childhood. Scandinavian surveys show a similar picture. Official crime statistics indicate a much lower incidence of child sexual abuse, which suggests a large number of unreported instances, especially for severe crimes in family settings. To what degree the sexual abuse is caused by pedophilesin the figure of the "dirty old man"and not by relatives or other persons known to the child is impossible to discern from the existing statistical sources. But all research suggests that the most severe sexual abuses of children are related to incestuous relations within the family.

The Cultural History of Pedophilia

Despite the lack of statistics, other sources indicate that sexual relations between adults and children have always existed. Attitudes toward this have changed over the course of history, and these relations have been condemned since late antiquity. Despite this we can find examples of prominent figures, including Saint Augustine (354430), Muhammad (570632), and Gandhi (18691948), who publicly enjoyed the company of young children and may have had sexual relations with them.

In the strictly hierarchical society of classical Greece, sexual relations between an adult man and a boy were seen as contributing to the boy's education. In late antiquity this view was questioned by, among others, the poet Ovid and the philosopher Plutarch. They argued that such a relationship was not fulfilling for the adult, since the boy, due to his inferior social status, was not allowed to express his own desire. This devaluated the joy of his adult partner and so men were better served by having sexual relations with women.

With the rise of Christianity, approved sexuality came to be located within heterosexual marriage, with procreation as its sole purpose. This was reflected in medieval legislation that established minimum marriage ages and prohibitions against incest and homosexual relations. With the Enlightenment and the French Revolution in the eighteenth century, morality was no longer the responsibility solely of the Church. The gatekeeper of public and private morals was to be the state, and nineteenth-century penal legislation built upon this base, adding sections on sexual offenses.

The penal code did not prevent adults from having sexual relations with children. The most severe sexual abuse can be detected in legal sources, from rape to sexually related child murder. Between 1830 and 1890, two-thirds of all documented sexual offenses in London had children as victims. Nineteenth-century institutional and educational sources show a less dramatic picture, with some ambiguity about the line between physical and sexual abuse of children by teachers or priests.

Discourse on the sexual abuse of children was renewed in France and England around 1850 as a result of the rise of the middle-class family, with its romantic concept of the child, as well as the establishment of the new scientific professions of psychiatry and forensic medicine. Two French physicians, Adolphe Toulmouche and Ambrose Tardieu, undertook the first forensic medical studies of child victims of sexual abuse.

But it was not until the publication of a series of articles entitled "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" in the British newspaper the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885 that sexual abuse of children became a topic for public discussion. The articles, written by the journalist W. T. Stead, dealt with child prostitution. They had an enormous effect on a public that cultivated the image of the innocent girl-child as encountered in Alice in Wonderland and in the many contemporary photos and paintings of naked children. About a quarter of a million people marched in the streets of London demanding a higher age of consent for sexual acts. This

demand was echoed all over the Western world, and at the outbreak of World War I the age of consent had been raised in most countries from ten or twelve to fifteen, sixteen, or eighteen.

The people responsible for bringing sexual child abuse to the public's attention were not physicians. Despite the occurrence of sexually transmitted venereal diseases amongchildren, both at orphanages and in families, physicians tended to profess belief in the so-called innocent explanation: that the children had caught the diseases after sharing sheets, sponges, or towels. The physicians were motivated not only by fear of losing customers if they interfered in the domain of the family. The epidemiology of venereal diseases was not completely known. Furthermore, it was not yet possible in their society to speak about children and sexuality within the context of the innocent child. To the nineteenth-century child savers, the subject could not be mentioned without evoking the image of the masturbating boy and the precocious working-class girl.

In this situation, the subject was left to the women's movement, the philanthropic societies, and individual child savers. Due to their work, a new imagethat of the sexually innocent child who was easy prey for sexually depraved adult menwas introduced into the culture.

Even though children were considered sexually innocent, however, they were not always trusted in court. The skepticism facing the child witness was great, and it was supported by new scientific studies of child witnesses and by a Freudian understanding of children's sexuality. This new knowledge could also be used to acquit the child of bad intentions, since it framed childhood sexuality as by its very nature innocent.

The moral panic about sexual child abuse at the end of the nineteenth century was followed by a series of media panics during the twentieth century. With a foundation in sexology, forensic medicine, and eugenics, the image of the sexual psychopath dominated the discourse of the 1930s through 1950s. This interpretation was gradually replaced by psychoanalysis, the sexual revolution, and an understanding of and belief in resocializing sexual criminals. In the late 1960s the picture changed again with the development of the women's movement and movements concerned with the rights of various groups. This period climaxed with the first accusations against preschool teachers. Among the first cases was the McMartin Preschool in California. The case opened in 1983. Seventeen years later all the accused were acquitted.

During the 1970s through 1990s, revelations of the existence of child pornography as well as pedophile chat groups on the Internet, in addition to a series of sensational child murders in the United States and Europe, resulted in a new moral panic, which led to an insistence on stronger punishments for child sexual abuse and a demand for national registers of sexual offenders. The first world conference on sexual child abuse, held in Stockholm in the summer of 1996, supported these. In the United States, thirty-five states implemented the so-called Megan's Laws during the years 1994 through 1996. These laws contain a community notification provision. Forty-nine states have introduced state registers. In the early twenty-first century a reaction to what came to be seen as a witch-hunt against pedophiles became visible. It produced a growing awareness of the legal rights of the accused.

The Serial Pedophile of the 1990s

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, pedophilia as well as sexual child abuse are no longer private matters, as they were a century before. They are public matters that keep a collection of professionals, from physicians, psychiatrics, and psychologists to lawyers busy. They also sell well in the media. Whereas sexual abuse within the family has been known and publicly condemned for generations, the twentieth century has seen a growing awareness of sexual child abuse in public settings, from preschools to the Catholic Church. Public awareness has shifted its focus from the adult to the child, and concern is not only for girls but, since the 1930s, has grown to include boys as well.

The growing discussion of pedophilia and the sexual abuse of children has been seen as characteristic of the cultural and mental changes of the twentieth century. Researchers seem to agree that the increased number of cases has not, by itself, been the driving force behind the discussion. Here the agreement stops, and a variety of different explanations are to be found in the existing literature. They range from pointing out the responsibility of the scientific professions as well as the media to explaining the public debate about pedophilia as an element in disciplining heterosexual normality. The question of continuity and change has also been introduced. When 250,000 people marched in the streets of Brussels, Belgium, in the summer of 1996, was this a repetition of the London march of 1885 against the white slave trade and a demand for a higher age of consent? Or was it the harbinger of a radical new phase, since the child in contemporary society could be considered the last remaining, irrevocable, unexchangeable primary reflection of adult dreams of a long-lost world of purity and stability. The strong reactions to sexual child abuse are in reality an exhibition of adult insecurity at being confronted with a late-modern, reflexive society, where human relations are constantly changing. A final statement in this debate over the rationality of the pedophilia discourse comes from the American literary critic James Kincaid. He has advocated the provocative thesis that the contemporary concept of the child, which praises innocence and asexuality, inevitably produces its own erotic counterpart. In our longing for children, the erotic desires are banned and projected onto the pedophile. In other words, the focus on pedophilia fulfils an existential need.

The above-mentioned studies focus on the discourse on pedophilia and sexual abuse of children. Analysis of legal practices has revealed gendered, racial, and social biases as well as concealment, ambivalences, and distortions when the many words had to be turned into action. Knowledge of the reality of sexual child abuse has been based on studies of court records. They reveal that girls historically have been thought to be the most vulnerable group, especially girls from lower social strata and of non-white descent. They also reveal that the sexual abuse of children often continued unpunished for many years because, on the one hand, children were not trusted as witnesses in such cases, and, on the other, mothers were often blamed for not having been watchful enough. Studies of court materials have also revealed how difficult it can be to untangle the accusation of child abuseespecially sexual child abusefrom social and racial prejudices of the juridical system.

See also: Child Saving; Lolita.


Fass, Paula S. 1997. Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Feldman, W., et al. 1991. "Is Childhood Sexual Abuse Really Increasing in Prevalence?" Pediatrics 88: 2933.

Freedman, E. B. 1987. "'Uncontrolled Desires.' The Response to the Sexual Psychopath 19201960." Journal of American History (June): 83106.

Jackson, Louise A. 2000. Child Sexual Abuse in Victorian England. New York: Routledge.

Jenks, Chris. 1994. "Child Abuse in the Postmodern Context: An Issue of Social Identity." Childhood 2: 111121.

Jenkins, Phillip. 1998. Moral Panic: Changing Concepts of the Child Molester in Modern America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Kincaid, James R. 1998. Erotic Innocence: The Culture of Child Molesting. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ning de Coninck-Smith

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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.

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The recurrent, intense presence of sexual urges and fantasies of at least six months' duration, involving sexual activity with prepubescent children.


Pedophilia is a subcategory of a larger group of sexual disorders commonly classified as paraphilias. These are defined as recurrent, intense, aphrodisiac fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors, over a period of at least six months, which involve non-human objects, the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner, or children or other non-consenting partners. If these recurrent fantasies, urges, and behaviors involve sexual activities with prepubescent children (generally age 13 or younger), the main diagnostic criterion for pedophilia is met.

Pedophilia encompasses simple voyeurism of nude children, observing children at various stages of undress or assisting them to undress, sexual fondling, exposing oneself, performing oral sex on children and/or requesting them to return oral sex, or mutual masturbation. In most cases (except those involving incest ), pedophiles do not require sexual penetration, and do not force their attentions on a child. They instead rely on guile, persuasion, and friendship , often displaying great tenderness and affection toward the child of their desire. Once a person has engaged in sexual activity with a child, he or she is then additionally labeled a "child molester." Thus, child molestation is subsumed in the overall condition of pedophilia.

A psychological profile of pedophilia escapes development because perpetrators appear to constitute a heterogenous group. However, some common characteristics prevail among both pedophiles and child molesters. The great majority of pedophiles are male, and they may be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual in orientation. Preference for children as sex partners may not be exclusive, and more often than not, pedophiles have no gender preference in prepubescent children. However, by a margin greater than two to one, most victims are girls. Moreover, the pedophile is usually a relative, friend, or neighbor of the child's family . Alcohol is associated with almost 50 percent of molestation cases, but is not necessarily correlated with pedophilia in general. Pedophilia tends to be a chronic condition, and recidivism is high.

The motives for engaging in sexual activity with children are rather divergent among pedophiles, but one theme recurs: the pedophile tends to justify his/her conduct. Pedophiles often indicate to authorities that the child solicited sexual contact or activity, and also claim that the child derives as much sexual pleasure from the activity as the perpetrator. Pedophiles also excuse their behavior as non-harmful, non-violent, non-forced, even "educational" for the child. They often tend not to see themselves as abusers, molesters, or sexually deviant. This quality of being into denial as to the true harm that they may cause belies the fact that clearly, most pedophiles act for their own gratification and not that of the child. In fact, more often than not, they describe their urges as compulsive, non-controllable and overwhelming.

The pedophilic disposition may not manifest until later in life, but more often than not, manifests in adolescence . By definition, it requires a minimum of five years' age between the perpetrator and the child in order to be classified as pedophilia. The disorder is more common in those who have been sexually abused in their own childhoods. In that subcategory of persons, the perpetrators choose victims in accordance with their own ages at the time of their experiences.

Pedophiles describe themselves as introverted, shy, sensitive, and depressed. Objective personality test results tend to confirm these subjective assessments, with the addition traits of emotional immaturity and a fear of being able to function in mature adult heterosexual relationships. A common characteristic of pedophiles is a moralistic sexual attitude or sexual repression.

Accurate diagnostic studies of prevalence among populations are unreliable for two reasons. First, the tendency may remain latent and undiagnosible unless the person voluntarily seeks counseling or help. Often the condition is masked by feigned responses to diagnostic criteria. Second, there is even among professionals a wide variance in definitional criteria and identification of this disorder.

There are two major professional tools employed to assess and diagnose pedophilia. The first is through phallometric testing (also referred to as penile plethysmo-graphic assessment, or PPG), which measures changes in penile blood volume occurring simultaneously with the presentation of varying erotic stimuli. There has been some criticism of the reliability of this test because physiological changes are easier to measure than interpret. Second, arousal also may be a function of general arousability rather than of specific stimuli. To address this, researchers have developed a second diagnostic tool as a central arousability system intended to work adjunctly with PPG. The contingent negative variation (CNV) system measures brain waves as putative indices of sexual desire under conditions of sexual stimulation relevant to pedophilic arousal.


Behavioral treatment of pedophilia does not affect recidivism, nor apparently does incarceration. The condition remains chronic, and for this reason, societal interest in incarceration prevails over what is generally seen as equivocal behavior treatment.

Although most practitioners believe that the etiology of pedophilia is psychologically oriented, a report published in the Journal of Neuro Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience suggested that bilateral anterior temporal disease, affecting more right than left temporal lobe, could increase sexual interest. The authors' study was limited to two adult professional patients with late-life homosexual pedophilia. Therefore, further observation and research is necessary to assess diagnostic and treatment implications for all neurologically based paraphilias.

In late 1999, Israeli researchers published a report on the discovery of the drug triptorelin as an effective treatment for males sex offenders in general. The drug regulates the production of testosterone. Of interest is that it can be injected once a month, compared to other similar anti-androgen drugs, which must be administered more often and have more serious side effects.

Current trends

The effective diagnosis and treatment of pedophilia is threatened by three key developments going into the new century. The 1994 (Fourth) edition of the professional therapists' bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), adds another (controversial) criterion for diagnosing pedophilia. It includes, in its diagnostic definitional criteria, that the fantasies, urges, or behaviors "cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." This latest definitional criterion has met with considerable resistance, due to the fact that so many pedophiles deny that their conduct is harmful. The denial serves to assuage any guilt , and therefore may significantly mask or otherwise repress any distress or impairment on the part of the perpetrator.

Secondly, there has been marked pervasiveness and proliferation of child pornographic materials on the Internet and international websites. In a 1998 Interpol raid (the latest data available), a total of 500,000 child pornographic images were found on computers in the United States alone. According to one study, as much as 45 percent of child pornography on the Internet comes from Japan, where child pornography is not an offense. The second largest concentration of child pornographic sites come from Russia. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in cooperation with the Interpol, continue to police global websites and shut down operations.

Another area of controversy was the late 1998 American Psychological Association's publication of a study entitled, "A Meta Analytic Examination of Assumed Properties of Child Sexual Abuse Using College Samples." The study's authors advised practitioners not to assume that sexual activity between non-related adults and children was harmful. The study, which was limited to interviews with college students, further posited that if the involved child/victim consented to the sexual activity, little or no harm was done to the child's adult life or personality. Most of the research in the study had not been subjected to peer review. The study caused an immediate reaction in professional, family, and media entities. On July 12, 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives voted a shut-out 355-0 to condemn the study. As Representative Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) stated to the press, "Children are not capable of giving consent to sexual encounters with adults."

See also Paraphilias

Lauri R. Harding

Further Reading

"A New Treatment for Pedophilia." Harvard Mental Health Letter, (October 1999): 7.

D'Agnostino, Joseph. "Pro-Child Advocates Challenge Study Legitimizing Pedophilia." American Spectator, (November 1999): 66.

Gahr, Evan. "Psyched Out in Left Field." American Spectator, (November 1999): 66.

Ivey, Gavin; and Peta Simpson. "The Psychological Life of Paedophiles: A Phenomenological Study." South African Journal of Psychology, (March 1998): 15.

Martin, Ann-Louise. "Paedophilia Online, Off Limits!" UN ESCO Sources, (February 1999): 21.

Murray, John B. "Psychological Profile of Pedophiles and Child Molesters." Journal of Psychology Interdisciplinary & Applied, (March 2000): 211.

Repique, RJR. "Assessment & Treatment of Persons with Pedophilia." Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services, (December 1999).

Tavris, Carol. "The Uproar Over Sexual Abuse Research and Its Findings." Society, (May/June 2000): 15.

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pedophilia, psychosexual disorder in which there is a preference for sexual activity with prepubertal children. Pedophiles are almost always males. The children are more often of the opposite sex (about twice as often) and are typically 13 years or age or younger; they may be within or outside the pedophile's family. Sexual fantasies, looking, or fondling are more common than genital contact. Sexual offenses against children make up a significant proportion of reported criminal sex acts.

The cause or causes of pedophilia are not well understood. Personality problems may be evident, and the pedophile often shows little or no concern for the effects of his sexual behavior on the child. Researchers have reported that psychotherapy in conjunction with the use of testosterone-lowering drugs has substantially reduced the desire in male pedophiles to molest children. See also child abuse.

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"pedophilia." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2013. 25 Jul. 2014 <>.

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pe·do·phil·i·a / ˌpedəˈfilēə; ˌpēdə-/ (Brit. pae·do·phil·i·a) • n. sexual feelings directed toward children. DERIVATIVES: pe·do·phil·i·ac / -ˈfilēˌak/ n. & adj.

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"pedophilia." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. 2009. 25 Jul. 2014 <>.

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pedophiliamyalgia, nostalgia •sporangia •florilegia, quadriplegia •Phrygia • Thuringia • loggia • Borgia •apologia, eulogia •Perugia •Czechoslovakia, Slovakia •Saskia •clarkia, souvlakia •rudbeckia •fakir, Wallachia •Ischia •Antalya, espalier, pallia, rallier •shilly-shallyer • Somalia •hotelier, Montpellier, sommelier, St Helier •Australia, azalea, bacchanalia, Castalia, dahlia, echolalia, genitalia, inter alia, Lupercalia, Mahalia, marginalia, paraphernalia, regalia, Saturnalia, Thalia, Westphalia •Amelia, camellia, Celia, Cordelia, Cornelia, Delia, Elia, epithelia, Karelia, Montpelier, Ophelia, psychedelia •bougainvillea, Brasília, cilia, conciliar, familiar, haemophilia (US hemophilia), Hillier, juvenilia, memorabilia, necrophilia, paedophilia (US pedophilia), sedilia •chanticleer •collier, volleyer •cochlea • haulier •Anatolia, magnolia, melancholia, Mongolia •Apulia, dulia, Julia, peculiar •nuclear, sub-nuclear, thermonuclear •buddleia

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"pedophilia." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. 2007. 25 Jul. 2014 <>.

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pedophilia. Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)