Myth 1: All pedophiles and ephebophiles are child molesters.
- Psychologists classify people as pedophiles or ephebophiles on the basis of their feelings, not their actions. They are people who have enduring preferential feelings of sexual attraction for pre-pubescent children or adolescents, respectively.1
- They may or may not act on their sexual feelings. There is evidence that many abstain from sex with minors, but it is unknown how many do so.2
- On the other hand, people are classified as child molesters based on their behavior, usually according to legal criteria. They are people who have interacted sexually with a person under the legally-defined age of consent.
- A large number of studies show that a majority of child molesters are not preferentially attracted to prepubescent children or adolescents, and therefore are not pedophiles or ephebophiles.3 Many engage in sex with children because of situational factors such as marital problems, alcoholism, or unavailability of adults.4
Child molestation is a crime. Pedophilia and ephebophilia are not.
For more information about definitions and distinctions, see the section on this site about terminology.