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Your web browser may be malfunctioning. Your internet connection may be unreliable. For more information about the W3C website, see the Webmaster FAQ. This article is about the sexual preference toward prepubescent children. It is not to be confused with hebephilia or ephebophilia. Pedophilia, or paedophilia, is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children.
In popular usage, the word pedophilia is often applied to any sexual interest in children or the act of child sexual abuse. Pedophilia was first formally recognized and named in the late 19th century. A significant amount of research in the area has taken place since the 1980s. Pedophilia emerges before or during puberty, and is stable over time. For these reasons, pedophilia has been described as a disorder of sexual preference, phenomenologically similar to a heterosexual or homosexual sexual orientation. Studies of pedophilia in child sex offenders often report that it co-occurs with other psychopathologies, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and personality problems. Impaired self-concept and interpersonal functioning were reported in a sample of child sex offenders who met the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia by Cohen et al.
A 2011 study reported that pedophilic child molesters had deficits in response inhibition, about half of committed offenders have a diagnosis of pedophilia. Diagnostic criteria ultimately remained the same as in DSM, defined or studied until the late 19th century. Little is known about this population because most studies of pedophilia use criminal or clinical samples; executive dysfunctions in pedophilic and nonpedophilic child molesters”. Sexual Deviance: Theory, noting “this sexual attraction has the potential to cause significant harm to others and is also not in the best interests of the individual. Pedophilia: When Is a Difference a Disorder?
The pedophilic offenders in the study had elevated psychopathy and cognitive distortions compared to healthy community controls. The most marked differences between pedophiles and controls were on the introversion scale, with pedophiles showing elevated shyness, sensitivity and depression. The pedophiles scored higher on neuroticism and psychoticism, but not enough to be considered pathological as a group. Consumption of child pornography is a more reliable indicator of pedophilia than molesting a child, although some non-pedophiles also view child pornography. Pedophilic viewers of child pornography are often obsessive about collecting, organizing, categorizing, and labeling their child pornography collection according to age, gender, sex act and fantasy. Although what causes pedophilia is not yet known, researchers began reporting a series of findings linking pedophilia with brain structure and function, beginning in 2002.
Such studies suggest that there are one or more neurological characteristics present at birth that cause or increase the likelihood of being pedophilic. Some studies have found that pedophiles are less cognitively impaired than non-pedophilic child molesters. A 2011 study reported that pedophilic child molesters had deficits in response inhibition, but no deficits in memory or cognitive flexibility. Another study, using structural MRI, indicated that male pedophiles have a lower volume of white matter than a control group. While not causes of pedophilia themselves, childhood abuse by adults or comorbid psychiatric illnesses—such as personality disorders and substance abuse—are risk factors for acting on pedophilic urges. The ICD-10 defines pedophilia as “a sexual preference for children, boys or girls or both, usually of prepubertal or early pubertal age”.
Like the DSM, this system’s criteria require that the person be at least 16 years of age or older before being diagnosed as a pedophile. Exclusive pedophiles are sometimes referred to as true pedophiles. Neither the DSM nor the ICD-10 diagnostic criteria require actual sexual activity with a prepubescent youth. The diagnosis can therefore be made based on the presence of fantasies or sexual urges even if they have never been acted upon. On the other hand, a person who acts upon these urges yet experiences no distress about their fantasies or urges can also qualify for the diagnosis. The DSM-IV-TR criteria was criticized simultaneously for being over-inclusive, as well as under-inclusive. DSM-IV-TR, and proposed a general solution applicable to all paraphilias.
The American Psychiatric Association stated that “n the case of pedophilic disorder, the notable detail is what wasn’t revised in the new manual. Although proposals were discussed throughout the DSM-5 development process, diagnostic criteria ultimately remained the same as in DSM-IV TR” and that “nly the disorder name will be changed from pedophilia to pedophilic disorder to maintain consistency with the chapter’s other listings. O’Donohue, however, suggests that the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia be simplified to the attraction to children alone if ascertained by self-report, laboratory findings, or past behavior. He states that any sexual attraction to children is pathological and that distress is irrelevant, noting “this sexual attraction has the potential to cause significant harm to others and is also not in the best interests of the individual. There is no evidence that pedophilia can be cured. Instead, most therapies focus on helping the pedophile refrain from acting on their desires. There are several common limitations to studies of treatment effectiveness.