Male Homosexual Attraction to Minors Information Center
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Problems with research


Researchers have identified the following shortcomings in much of the literature that has sought to investigate minor-attracted men or adult-minor sexual interaction:

Annotated bibliography: Theoretical and methodological problems

Feierman, J., "Introduction and A Biosocial Overview," in Feierman, J. (ed.), Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1990a, pp. 1-68.

Jay Feierman of the University of New Mexico discusses the narrow anthropocentrism, ethnocentrism, and chronocentrism of much research that precludes accurate understanding of adult-minor sexual interaction. He also addresses several methodological problems, including the almost exclusive use of non-representative samples, the assumption that correlation implies causation, and confusion between pedophilia and ephebophilia and between sexual preference and behavior. Finally, he argues for research into the development of pedophilia and ephebophilia in childhood, and for historical, anthropological, and biological research into adult-minor sexual behavior.

Jones, G., "The Study of Intergenerational Intimacy in North America: Beyond Politics and Pedophilia," Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 20, nos. 1-2, 1990, pp. 275-295.

Gerald Jones of the University of Southern California discusses problems that have prevented research from adding to the professional knowledge regarding adult-minor sexual relationships, including a narrow focus on sexual contact, a reliance on assumptions that contradict well-established scientific findings, the use of legal definitions rather than scientific ones, and the purposeful abandonment of science by some researchers. He also addresses the current cultural climate that makes objective research virtually impossible.

Kilpatrick, A., "Childhood Sexual Experiences: Problems and Issues in Studying Long-Range Effects," Journal of Sex Research, vol. 23, no. 2, 1987, pp.173-196.

Allie Kilpatrick discusses methodological problems which render the findings of many studies useless: failure to use comparison groups, reliance on biased clinical or criminal samples, failure to consider or control for other possible causal factors, and the use of inconsistent, vague, or overly-broad definitions of abuse based on age differences rather than effects on the child. She writes that as a consequence, researchers make invalid generalizations and buttress existing social norms rather than conduct scientific investigations, representing a conflict of interest.

Okami, P. & Goldberg, A., "Personality Correlates of Pedophilia: Are They Reliable Indicators?", Journal of Sex Research, vol. 29, no. 3, 1992, pp. 297-328.

UCLA psychologists Paul Okami and Amy Goldberg explain how the practice of basing theories, definitions, and methodology on moral and legal concerns rather than on empirical ones have led to misleading or invalid conclusions. They describe "definitional chaos" related to the term "pedophilia" and note failures by researchers to distinguish between prepubescent children and adolescents.

Annotated bibliography: Definitional problems

Green, R., “Is pedophilia a mental disorder?”, Archives of Sexual Behavior, vol. 31, no. 6, 2002, pp. 467-471.

British sexologist Richard Green describes changing definitions of pedophilia in successive editions of DSM and writes that the current definition is logically incoherent. He writes that it fails to meet the DSM’s own criteria for classification as a mental disorder.

Haugaard, J.J., "The challenge of defining child sexual abuse," American Psychologist, vol. 55, no. 9, 2000, pp. 1036-1039.

Jeffrey J. Haugaard of Cornell University describes the lack of consensus among researchers, lawmakers, and clinicians on the fundamental issue of defining child sexual abuse (CSA). He notes that definitional ambiguity precludes the creation of a useful body of knowledge, and he proposes a solution to this problem.

Haugaard, J.J. & Emery, R.E., "Methodological issues in child sexual abuse research," Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 13, 1989, pp. 89-100.

Jeffrey J. Haugaard and Robert E. Emery of the University of Virginia describe the results of their study finding that the definition of CSA has significant impact on estimates of prevalence and effects. A broad definition based on age differences resulted in the finding that CSA was unrelated to any negative effects. Thus, such definitions may have the effect of erroneously "minimizing experiences of some victims while raising overconcern about the experiences of others."

Li, C.K., "Adult sexual experiences with children," in Li, C.K., West, D.J., & Woodhouse, T.P., Children’s sexual encounters with adults, London: Duckworth, pp. 139-316, 1990a.

Psychologist Chin-Keung Li notes that widely varying definitions of "child," "abuse," and "abuser," along with different kinds of samples and varying response rates, result in widely discrepant estimates of prevalence, ranging from 2% to 30% among boys. He writes that claims of the ubiquity of child sexual abuse ignore a crucial issue--the proportion of activities included that are consensual, which evidence suggests may be over 80%.

West, D.J. & Woodhouse, T.P., "Sexual encounters between boys and adults," in Li, C.K., West, D.J., & Woodhouse, T.P., Children’s sexual encounters with adults, London: Duckworth, pp. 3-137, 1990.

D.J. West & T.P. Woodhouse argue that the use of inconsistent and overly broad definitions of "abuse" obscure important issues and lead to unreliable or useless findings, fragmentary and conflicting information, and debates that are more polemical than well-informed. He also notes problems with making generalizations based on imprisoned sex offenders.

Annotated bibliography: Problems of objectivity

Li, C.K., "Adult sexual experiences with children," in Li, C.K., West, D.J., & Woodhouse, T.P., Children’s sexual encounters with adults, London: Duckworth, pp. 139-316, 1990a.

Psychologist Chin-Keung Li discusses research in which the investigators resort to speculation, neglect confounding variables, examine data selectively, or interpret results in light of their own value judgments. He also describes ways in which researchers bias conclusions by mixing together different types of sexual experiences and assuming that findings from one type apply to others.

Okami, P., "Sociopolitical Biases in the Contemporary Scientific Literature on Adult Human Sexual Behavior with Children and Adolescents," in Feierman, J. (ed.), Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1990, pp. 91-121.

UCLA psychologist Paul Okami describes biased research methods which inhibit an understanding of adult-minor sexual interaction. These methods include starting from assumptions that contradict known research findings, using terminology that confounds attempts to understand such interactions, and biasing methods toward their expected results. He writes that much literature appears intended to enforce social norms rather than promote scientific inquiry, and that it resembles demonology more than sexology.

Annotated bibliography: Political impediments

Bullough, E.V.L. & Bullough, B., "Problems of research into adult/child sexual interaction"*, Issues In Child Abuse Accusations, vol. 8, no. 2, 1996.

Vern and Bonnie Bullough of the State University of New York at Buffalo discuss the legal and political restrictions that prevent serious research from being done into adult/child sexual interaction, in spite of the large amount of money available. They discuss media misrepresentation of the issues, mandatory reporting laws, and attempts at character assassination that render such research "dangerous and debilitating."

Criteria for inclusion of research

In light of the problems with research identified by scientists, MHAMic uses the following criteria to insure that information presented at this site is as reliable as possible:

  1. It is preferable that the article or book not rely primarily on clinical or criminal samples. If it does, the author should not generalize its findings beyond such populations.
  2. Terminology should be clearly defined, with distinctions made between pre-pubescent children and adolescents, between pedophilia and ephebophilia, and between sexual attraction (pedophilia and ephebophilia) and behavior (pedo-sexuality, ephebo-sexuality, sex offenses against minors).
  3. The article or book should not conclude causality in the absence of empirical data, comparison groups, or control for confounding factors.
  4. The study's methods and findings should be based on scientific principles or empirical evidence, rather than speculation or ideology.
  5. To ensure credibility, an article must have been published in a respected, reputable journal, and a book must have been edited or authored by a professional with credentials in psychology, sexology, or sociology.

A small number of studies that fail to meet one or two of criteria 1 - 4 have been included because they provide information not found elsewhere. In such cases, their limitations (or errors) are pointed out.

In addition, due to the nature of the following topics, items addressing them at this site do not necessarily meet criteria 1 - 4:


1. Feierman, 1990a; Kilpatrick, 1987; West & Woodhouse, 1990.
2. Feierman, 1990a; Haugaard, 2000; Kilpatrick, 1987; Langevin, 1983; Li, 1990a; Okami, 1990; Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
3. Haugaard & Emery, 1989; Jones, 1990; Kilpatrick, 1987; West & Woodhouse, 1990.
4. Feierman, 1990a; Kilpatrick, 1987; Li, 1990a.
5. Jones, 1990; Okami, 1990; Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
6. Kilpatrick, 1987; Li, 1990a; Okami, 1990; Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
*offsite article
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