Attraction to prepubescent children
Sexual attraction to boys (or girls) who have not yet entered puberty is termed pedophilia.
The term pedophile has its origins in ancient Greek as a synonym to pederast; that is, a man who falls in love with adolescent boys.12
However, it has acquired many different meanings in different parts of the world, and among different segments of society. Researchers and clinicians often use the term in inconsistent ways:
- North American researchers who have extensively studied adult attraction to minors limit pedophilia to the presence of enduring preferential feelings of sexual attraction for prepubescent children, not for adolescents. These feelings must be stronger than those for adolescents or adults, regardless of actual sexual behavior. Pedophiles may or may not act on these feelings.13
- Some researchers, especially those in Europe, extend pedophilia to include feelings for adolescents.14
- Some researchers incorrectly use the term to refer to anyone who has had even a fleeting sexual feeling for a child.15
- Others use it incorrectly to refer to anyone who has ever had sexual contact with a child, regardless of their sexual feelings.16
- The American Psychiatric Associationís DSM-IV-TR defines pedophilia as "recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children" where the adult has "acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies caused marked distress or interpersonal difficulty."17
The DSM-IV-TR definition differs from that of many researchers in that it excludes cases where the adult has a preferential attraction to prepubescent children but does not act on it and does not experience distress or difficulty. There are unresolved issues in the DSM definition of pedophilia related to this fact, and to the fact that the definition may not meet the DSMís own criteria for classification as a mental disorder.18
This site uses the term pedophilia as it is used by leading North American researchers (the first group above); that is:
- pedophilia is the presence of sexual feelings for children,
- the children have not reached puberty,
- children are preferred over adolescents and adults,
- these feelings are enduring, and
- it is not necessary that the adult has acted on these feelings or experiences distress or difficulty as a result of them.
Adult sexual interaction with prepubescent children is termed pedosexual behavior. The adult involved in such behavior need not be a pedophile; that is, not preferentially attracted to children.19
13. Feierman, 1990a; Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
14. Sandfort, 1987; Wilson & Cox, 1983.
15. Okami & Goldberg, 1992; Smiljanich & Briere, 1996.
16. Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
17. American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM IV-TR, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association, 2000.
18. Green, 2002.
19. Feierman, 1990a; Okami & Goldberg, 1992; Sandfort, 1987.