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This report contains a profile of the characteristics of pedophiles. Ambiguities in the validity and reliability of measurement, however, make it difficult to obtain a delineation clear enough for clinicians to use. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III-R; American Psychiatric Association, 1987) lists the essential features of pedophilia as "recurrent, intense, sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies, of at least six months duration, involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child" (p. 284). The prepubescent child generally is 13 years old or younger. The perpetrator is 16 years old or older, at least 5 years older than the victim, and has an enduring and exclusive sexual interest in children. The majority of pedophiles and child molesters are men, according to the DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). Most often pedophiles are relatives, friends, or neighbors of the child victims.
Pedophiles' actions vary, according to the DSM-IV. Some pedophiles only look at and do not touch the child. Others want to touch or undress the child. Some expose themselves, but usually exhibitionists do not approach the child sexually. Some want to fondle the child. When sexual activity occurs, it often involves oral sex or touching the genitals of the child or of the perpetrator. In most cases (except incest), pedophiles do not require penetration. When the pedophile demands penetration, he may use threats or force. The victims in these cases are usually older children. Most pedophiles do not force their attentions on the child; they depend on persuasion, guile, and friendship.
Pedophilic behavior usually begins in the late teenage years, but some pedophiles do not start until midlife. The latter would come closer to the "dirty old man" stereotype of pedophile and child molester. Pedophilia and child molestation may be more common among those who have been sexually abused in their childhood (Freund, Watson, & Dickey, 1990). Pedophilia tends to run a chronic course. Those who prefer young children of their own sex may be more likely to repeat their sexual abuse of children. Some pedophiles and child molesters have specific preferences for children of one sex or the other--usually girls, and children in specific age ranges. Those attracted to girls usually prefer 8- to 10-year-olds; those attracted to boys usually prefer children a little older. Many pedophiles report that they are sexually aroused by children of both sexes (Ames & Hovston, 1990).
In a recent study of pedophilia, Bogaert, Bezeau, Kuban, and Blanchard (1997) reviewed the charts of 388 pedophiles, covering the period 1980 to 1994 (thus, the later cases may have met the DSM-III-R requirements). This study was part of research conducted at the Department of Behavioral Sexology at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto, Canada. The majority of those studied had been accused of or charged with sexual offenses against children; a few came voluntarily for psychiatric assessment. Some of the pedophiles were heterosexual, some were homosexual, and some were bisexual. Pedophilic sexual offenses against girls were twice as frequent as offenses against boys; some of the researchers who participated in this Canadian study (Bogaert et al.) think the ratio is actually higher than 2:1. Their findings suggested discontinuity between pedophilia and adult-age sexual orientation. The factors that determined whether a man was oriented toward children (preferring boys or girls) differed from the factors that determined whether a man oriented toward adults preferred men or women. Homosexual pedophiles tended to not report cross-gender sex role behavior in their childhood and adolescence (Bogaert et al.).
In the study by Bogaert et al. (1997) and in many others, those studied were prisoners--a fact that must limit the generalizability of the data from the sample of pedophiles studied (Kalichman, 1991; Quinsey, Arnold, & Pruesse, 1980). The willingness or unwillingness of those individuals to admit pedophilia, as well as their ability to feign responses, could inhibit or enhance phallometric responses in determining sexual orientation (Freund & Kuban, 1993; Freund et al., 1990; Freund, Watson, & Rienzo, 1988; Hall, 1989; Hall, Proctor, & Nelson, 1988; Laws & Holmen, 1978).
The phallometric testing used by Bogaert et al. (1997) involved measurement of penile tumescence--a continuous recording of penile volume changes in response to erotic stimuli (Freund, Watson, Dickey, & Rienzo, 1991; Quinsey, Sternman, Bergersen, & Holmes, 1975). Phallometric testing has been the most frequent means of determining male preferences for sex partners of different ages and sexes (Freund & Watson, 1991). Marshall, Barbaree, and Butt (1988) used the sex of the victim to identify the perpetrator's sexual orientation. With the phallometric test, it is assumed that changes in penile blood volume occurring at presentation of erotic stimuli are reliable. Controversy about the validity of phallometric measurement and its importance has continued (Conte, 1985; Earls, Quinsey, & Castonguay, 1987; Freund & Blanchard, 1989; Hall et al., 1988; Laws, 1984; McAnulty & Adams, 1990; Quinsey & Laws, 1990). Physiological changes are easier to measure than to interpret (Harris, Rice, Quinsey, Chaplin, & Earls, 1992). Sexual arousal also may be a function of general arousability variables more than of specific stimuli (Hall, 1989; Hall et al., 1988).
Several studies of pedophilia were conducted by Greenberg, Bradford, and Curry (1993) in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa, Canada. They studied 135 pedophiles and 43 hebephiles who admitted to their offenses. Hebephiles preferred children who were between 13 and 16 years of age, whereas pedophiles chose children 12 years old or younger as their victims. Among the perpetrators, 33% chose only boys, 44% chose only girls, and 23% had sexually abused both boys and girls. In response to questioning, 42% of the pedophiles and 44% of the hebephiles claimed to have been sexually abused in their own childhood. Members of both groups appeared to choose victims in accordance with their own ages at the time of their experience as sexual victims.
Greenberg, Bradford, and Curry (1995) later studied pedophiles who chose infants (less than 5 years old in their definition) as victims. Pedophiles, who met the DSM-III-R definition of pedophilia, had been referred for psychiatric assessment by the courts, lawyers, medical doctors, and/or themselves. Those who preferred infants were significantly younger than the pedophiles whose victims were under 12 years of age. In their final study, Greenberg, Bradford, and Curry (1996) reported that, in the sexual actions of 263 pedophiles, no significant relation appeared between aggressive tendencies in comprehensive test results and the degree of violence in their sex acts, as described in police reports.
How do pedophiles see themselves? Ames and Hovston (1990) reported that, in a study conducted in England, 77 members of a pedophilia self-help club presented themselves on the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire as introverted, shy, sensitive, and depressed. Personality test results tended to confirm these traits and added emotional immaturity, fear of being able to function in adult heterosexual relations, and social introversion (Levin & Stava, 1987).
Pedophilia involves inappropriate sexual behavior in response to certain stimuli or situations. However, questions remain (Wulfert, Greenway, & Dougher, 1996). Do pedophiles abuse children in the family, outside the family, or both (Russell, 1983)? Are pedophiles guilty of incest (Phelan, 1986)? Are they affected by the suffering of their victims (Chaplin, Rice, & Harris, 1995)? Do they have age-appropriate sexual relationships? Do they use force? Unfortunately, studies of pedophilia have involved few subjects and a small number of tests. Thus, they do not.
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