Pedophilia is described as the act of an adult or a late adolescent (16 years and older) having asexual orientation towards children (14years and below); normally a child who is five years younger than them.
Production and selling of child pornography is also considered as pedophilic behavior. The individuals who practice these acts are known as pedophiles. Though pedophilia is listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) as a mental illness, many scientists beg to differ and campaign for its removal.
Many debates have arisen from a number of individuals either in support of pedophilia being in the DSM while others argue vehemently against its inclusion in the DSM like Dr. Richard Green a psychiatrist in the Charing Cross Hospital, London who is an dedicated campaigner against pedophilia being categorized as a mental disorder (Ahlers et al. 2007).
Across many cultures in the world, pedophilia is not considered to be morally wrong. Actually it is encouraged and praised like the Siwans in North Africa consider anal intercourse between men and boys as being an integral part of their living. It is such an important part of their culture that those who don’t practice it are frowned upon in the society. The Aborigines of Central Australia give another example.
There, it is allowed for a grown up man who is not yet married to live with a minor (twelve years or below) for the time of his bachelorhood till he gets married. It was seen that sexual relationship between a minor and an adult was beneficial to the child rather than the adult (Ben-Aron, Hucker, & Webster, 2003).
Dr. Richard Green argues that general personality features and psychopathology studies are influenced and hampered by sampling bias. He further argues that most of the candidates chosen for research studies are mostly incarcerated individuals and insists that this is not a credible sample of all the pedophiles.
This is supported by Finkelhor et al. (1986) when he wrote “[They are] a small fraction of all offenders, the most flagrant and repetitive in offending, most socially disadvantaged, and least able to persuade criminal justice authorities to let them off” (p. 34).
The difference between the incarcerated pedophiles and the non sexual deviant psychiatric patients is very minimal according to the Psychopathic Deviate Scale. Anxiety disorder and mood swings were also found in about two thirds of the non-incarcerated pedophiles. According to these researches, it is safe to say that pedophiles are generally introverted and hence most of the studies on psychosis and neurosis carried out tend to show their levels as slightly elevated but not to a clinically abnormal.
Studies on non-pedophiles have also been carried out where 80 “normal” individuals were studied and questioned about their sexual orientations. They showed that over 25% showed some pedophilic interest when shown pictures of prepubertal children. This study showed penile response of all the 48 soldiers to the adult female pictures, 40 of them for the adolescents and 28 of them to the children between 4 and 10 years.
On the flip side, there is another group of individuals who “enjoy” being pedophiles and even argue that it should be legalized and accepted just like homosexuality. These individuals argue that pedophilia does more good than harm to the child. They have no sense of remorse. These types of individuals are normal and have perfectly normal lives. They engage in pedophilia as a sport. Taking this to account, a big dent is put in the theory that pedophilia is a mental disorder.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders (DSM) is published by the American Psychiatric Association and provides a well packaged and sorted out list of all mental disorders that affect both adults and children. It was first published in 1952 and has been revised a total of five times.
Pedophilia has been listed here from the DSM I to DSM IV-TR. In DSM-I pedophilia is listed as a sexual deviation and was labeled “sociopathic” (went against societal morals), in DSM -II, “sociopathy” was removed and it became a non-psychotic mental disorders but it still remained as a sexual deviation (Blanchard, Cantor, & Robichaud, 2006).
In DSM-III pedophilia became a paraphilia. In DSM-III-R pedophilia was categorized as a “sexual paraphilia”. This categorizing gave rise to the argument that pedophilia was not a mental disorder but a social more.
DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic criteria for pedophilia states that; A pedophile is an individual who over a period of six months has recurrent intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger), has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty and has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. (Blanchard, Cantor, & Robichaud, 2006, p. 56)
This is a bit confusing because it only classifies the pedophiles that act on their sexual urges as mentally ill but leaves out the ones who do not. This raises the question as to whether the pedophiles who don’t act on their “feelings” are mentally ill or not.
There are some individuals who argue that pedophilia is a mental illness and pedophiles should not be condemned but should be treated with understanding and drugs. Traditionally, pedophiles were considered to have been molested or abused in their childhood hence their “abnormal” sexual orientation.
This theory has proven true in the past but there have been a number of researches that have pointed to the contrary. One of this new development shows that pedophilia is indeed a mental disorder. Many individuals have embarked on the process of searching for treatment and a cure for pedophilia.
One such individual is Dr. Anthony Siracusa, who treats sexually abused children, argues that pedophiles are regressed offenders. This means that they do not move forward in terms of relationships and they tend to be moving backwards (that is to children) instead of moving towards adults.
Dr.Hord also agrees with this and adds that pedophiles are insecure and are often not capable of having intimate relationships with other adults and keep moving from one relationship to another. Pedophiles prefer children because they have control over them and they tend to feel more confident among children than among anyone else. According to Dr. James Cantor and his team, pedophiles brains have less white matter.
In biology, the white matter is responsible for the thinking process (wiring). These studies were carries out on incarcerated pedophiles. Interesting studies that has been done in this area has indicated that pedophiles generally have lower IQ, are shorter and most of them are left-handed. This might be the reason for their general lack of self esteem. Dr. Cantor insists that the studies carried out are not meant to act as a scapegoat for pedophilia but it is meant to enhance the process of treating and even curing pedophilia.
There are a number of theories that try to explain pedophilia. One theory considers pedophilia as paraphilia where it is argued that it mostly affects men since testosterone predisposes men to having deviant and queer sexual behaviors. This, however, does not explain the reason for female pedophiles hence this theory is inconclusive.
Another theory regards pedophilia as a psychological issue. Most researchers argue that pedophiles were sexually abused as children or they have very strained relationships with their parents. Others argue that pedophiles are attracted to children because they never really matured psychologically. They still reason and think like children hence their resultant attraction to children. Another group regard pedophiles behave the way they do as a result of having an urge to control their sexual partners hence their attraction to children.
Children are weaker both physically and emotionally than adults. This theory is mostly proven in male pedophiles because most of they crave domination and they don’t seem to achieve that with adult females or males. Researchers supporting this idea argue that pedophilia is an illness like any other and pedophiles should be treated with concern and understanding.
In conclusion, human beings have a lot of desires. The society that we live in today is full of people with a lot of depraved sexual perversions. Pedophilia is simply one of them. Pedophilia is not in the same level as homosexuality as the latter is considered as sexual interaction between two adults who have willingly accepted to engage in it.
For Pedophilia, only the adult has the consent; the child is simply a victim. A pedophile is an adult who knowingly has sexual relations with a child. This means that he/she sits down and hatches a plan on how to “woo” a child. It is pre-meditated and is certainly not a mental disorder.
It is simply an act of satisfying one’s selfish desires and hiding these individuals under the clause “mental illness” is wrong because we would end up classifying all those individuals from the different cultures in the world as being mentally ill. Pedophilia is not a mental illness and it should be removed from the DSM.
Ahlers, J., Schaefer, A., Mundt, A., Roll, S., Englert, H., Willich, N., & Beier, M. (2007). How Unusual are the Contents of Paraphilias? The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2(3), 23-98.
Ben-Aron, M., Hucker, J., & Webster, D. (2003). Clinical Criminology: The assessment and Treatment of Criminal Behavior. Toronto, Canada: M & M Graphics.
Blanchard, R., Cantor, M., & Robichaud, K. (2006). Biological Factors in the Development of Sexual Deviance and Aggression in Males. The Juvenile Sex Offender, 8(2), 77–104).
Finkelhor, D., Araji, S., Baron, L., Browne, A., Peters, S. D., & Wyatt, G. E. (1986). A Sourcebook on Child Sexual Abuse. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Fuller, A. (1989). Child Molestation and Pedophilia: An Overview for the Physician. JAMA, 261(4), 602-6.