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Encyclopedia > Paedophile

Pedophilia (American English) or paedophilia / pædophilia (British English), from the Greek παιδοφιλια (paidophilia) < παις (pais) "boy, child" and φιλια (philia) "friendship", (ICD-10 F65.4) is the condition of people (either adult or adolescent) whose primary sexual attraction is toward prepubescent children. It is a chronophilia, i.e. a paraphilia in which the paraphile's sexuoerotic age is discordant with his or her actual chronological age and is concordant with the age of the partner. In the United States, it is sometimes used informally to describe people attracted to adolescents, or to describe child sex offenders. Pedosexuality is used as a synonym.



The term Paedophilia erotica was coined in 1896 by the Vienna psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his writing Psychopathia sexualis. The following characteristics are given:

  • the sexual interest is toward children, either prepubescent or at the beginning of puberty
  • the sexual interest is the primary one, i. e. exclusively or mainly toward children
  • the sexual interest remains over time

Occasionally definitions additionally require an age difference of at least five years. On the other hand, a pedophilic sexual orientation often develops during puberty or childhood. (See causes of sexual orientation.)

A person is not necessarily a pedophile simply because he can be sexually aroused by children. Pedophiles must have their primary sexual attraction towards them. There is evidence that at least a quarter of all adult men may have feelings of sexual arousal in connection with children (Freund & Costell 1970, Hall et al. 1995, Quinsey et al. 1975). Note that pedophilia can be diagnosed solely in the presence of fantasies or sexual urges on the subject's part — it need not involve sexual acts with children.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision, American Psychiatric Association includes a Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia:

  • A. Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
  • B. The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
  • C. The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.
Note: Do not include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.

Pedophiles often refer to themselves as boylovers or girllovers, though most of them are not both; collectively they are sometimes referred to as childlovers.

Related terms

Child sexual abuse

A perpetrator committing child sexual abuse is commonly (and mistakenly) assumed to be a pedophile, and referred to as such, but there are often other motivations, much as adult rape can have non-sexual motivations. Most perpetrators of child sexual abuse are not primarily interested in children - a fact which has been recognized by law enforcement (Lanning: Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis) They are sometimes referred to as pseudo-pedophilies or situational offenders, whereas pedophiles primarily attracted toward children are called structured pedophiles or fixated pedophiles, as their orientation is fixed by the structure of their personality.

Pedophile is not a legal category or term. Although the acts that molesters carry out are criminal in most jurisdictions, they are not legally referred to as pedophilia. However, newspapers and other news media frequently make erroneous use of the terms accused pedophile or convicted pedophile in reference to individuals accused or convicted of sexual abuse of children.


Ephebophilia, also known as hebephilia, is the condition in which adults are dependent on the sexual attraction to postpubescent adolescents. Pederasty refers to attraction toward male adolescents. Attraction to female adolescents is sometimes referred to as "Lolita syndrome". These terms are used in contrast with pedophilia; however pedophilia is sometimes used, in the United States, more broadly to describe both ephebophilia and attraction to younger children, i.e. any person younger than the legal age of consent.

Sexual desires including youths are common among adults with a heterosexual or homosexual orientation, though their attraction is not specifically to persons that young. Only when it is a specific and exclusive attraction, is it labeled ephebophilia as a sexual condition or orientation. It should also be noted that unlike pedophilia, attraction to adolescents has never been regarded by psychologists as pathological. In fact, it has often been considered normative in some societies, such as those in which adolescent girls have been married to adult men. Nonetheless, it is often illegal for adults to act on an attraction to adolescents below a certain age, and such activity is disapproved of in many societies.


Some researchers have suggested a distinction between pedophilia and infantophilia (also called nepiophilia), because interest in a 10-year old and a 2-year old seem rather different preferences. At the same time it is unusual for pedophiles to prefer toddlers.

Cultural norms

In Japanese society the attraction towards teenage girls (high-school students) is a widespread cultural phenomenon. The manifestations of such attraction, such as lolicon art, school uniform fetishes and sexual relations with teenage girls (e.g. enjo kosai) are more tolerated by society than in the West, but are often illegal.

Underage sex and criminality

Sexual acts between adults and children are both a taboo and a crime in many cultures because, among other reasons:

  1. children are seen as unable to understand the physical, emotional, and social consequences of sexual acts and are therefore unable to give informed consent;
  2. sexual acts can involve coercion and abuse of power, which can break bonds of trust;
  3. sexual acts can, for girls at puberty, lead to pregnancy, a condition for which they may well be unprepared; and
  4. religious or pseudo-religious faith often prevents scientific inquiry, as illustrated when the U.S. Congress voted unanimously to condemn Rind et al.

The percentage of pedophile perpetrators in cases of child sexual abuse is estimated to be 2 to 10 percent (Kinsey-Report, Lautmann, Brongersma, Groth). Abuse is mainly a phenomenon of heterosexual and homosexual orientation. Statistics from the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/press/rsorp94pr.htm "5 percent of sex offenders rearrested for another sex crime within 3 years of prison release") indicate that while sex offenders in general reoffend 5.3 percent of the time, child molesters reoffend only 3.3 percent of the time (though the latter statistic only counts child sexual abuse as opposed to all sex crimes).

Most cases of father-daughter incest are believed to involve fathers who are situational offenders, rather than pedophiles. Some have argued that these cases are triggered by the withdrawal of the mother from the family, often due to physical or mental illness.

Advocacy of pedophilia

There are a number of organizations together referred to as childlove movement that seek to remove the stigma from pedophilia, and to legalize sexual relationships between adults and children or teenagers.

  • The North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) advocates legalization of consensual sexual relationships between boys and men.
  • The Human Face of Pedophilia also advocates legalization of adult-child sex and proposes a set of guidelines to govern such relationships [1] (http://hfp.puellula.org).
  • MARTIJN is a Netherlands-based advocate of adult-child sex.
  • BoyChat (http://www.boychat.org/) is a support forum for male-attracted pedophiles.
  • Girl Chat (http://www.annabelleigh.net/) is a support forum for girl lovers.


  • Ames, A. & Houston, D.A. "Legal, social, and biological definitions of pedophilia." Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 19, 1990, pp. 333-342.
  • Pedophilia (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=12435259) Fagan PJ, Wise TN, et al, JAMA. 2002; 288: 2458-2465 Full text (http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/288/19/2458) (requires registration)
  • Archives of sexual behavior vol. 31 no. 6 December 2002, Is pedophilia a mental disorder?, summary (http://home.wanadoo.nl/ipce/library_two/files/asb.htm) - Discussion among scientists about whether pedophilia really is a disorder, and a discussion of the moral aspects of child sexual abuse
  • Rind et al., a controversial 1998 study of the effects of child sexual abuse
  • Capturing the Friedmans, a film documentary about a family troubled by pedophilia
  • Harmful to Minors, a book by Judith Levine which, among other issues of sexual morality, discusses the perception and reality of pedophilia
  • Paul Wilson: The Man They Called a Monster (http://home.wanadoo.nl/hote/wilson/). Book about a court reporter who had sexual relationships with 2500 adolescent males; includes interviews with the later adults who reflect on these relationships.

External links

  • Pedosexual Resources Directory (http://paedosexualitaet.de) - Contains a broad collection of scientific texts on the subject. Takes a pro-pedophilia viewpoint.
  • Catholics United for the Faith (http://www.cuf.org/apr02a.htm) - A Catholic organization's position paper about clerical sexual abuse.
  • Internet pedophilia (http://www.internet-danger.com/articles/pedophilia.php) - An article regarding pedophilic threats over the internet.
  • Study: Young men 'download illegal porn' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/3095271.stm) - A BBC article about a study of people who download child pornography.
  • Pedophilia and Child Molestation (http://www.rejectshame.com/RSmole.html) - An attempt to argue that non-sexual nudity helps protect children from sexual abuse.
  • Ipce (http://www.ipce.org) - A discussion forum of pedophilia. Takes a pro-pedophilia viewpoint.
  • Stop It Now (http://www.stopitnow.com) - A campaign to prevent child sexual abuse by calling on potential abusers to seek help.
  • Psychological roots of pedophilia (http://samvak.tripod.com/pedophilia.html)
  • Pedophiles Against Child Molestation web page (http://www.glgarden.org/kalikokat/PACM.html)
  • Pedophiles Against Child Molestation forum (http://www.forumbolt.com/index.php?mforum=pacm)

See also

  Results from FactBites:
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