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Title: The heterogeneity/homogeneity of pedophilia
Author(s): J.M.W. Bradford, B.A. Bloomberg, & D. Bourget
Affiliation: Forensic Service, Royal Ottowa Hospital, University of Ottowa
Citation: Bradford, J.M.W., Bloomberg, B.A., & Bourget, D., “The heterogeneity/homogeneity of pedophilia,” Psychiatric Journal of the University of Ottowa, v. 13, no. 4, pp. 217-226, 1988.


The authors begin by defining pedophilia as an act or fantasy of engaging in sexual activity with prepubertal children as the repeatedly preferred or exclusive method of achieving sexual excitement. However, they write that in homosexual pedophilia, the victims include those “in puberty and beyond,” overlapping with normal adult homosexuality. They write that the most appealing age for the homosexual pedophile is 13, which is the onset of puberty, although 45% of male victims are under 12.

[This contradicts usual North American scientific usage, where pedophilia refers only to preferential attraction to prepubescent children. Attraction to those who have entered puberty is generally called ephebophilia or hebephilia. --R.K.]

Then they define hebephilia as sexual attraction to 13-16 year olds. There is poor consensus about the age difference that must exist between the victim and the perpetrator to qualify as pedophilia. The authors set it at 10 years.

Most molesters are known by the child, and most incidents occur in the home of either person. The authors cite 11 studies showing that the most characteristic activities are cuddling, caressing, and fondling, usually with the child’s willing compliance and often at his initiative. Nineteen to thirty-three percent of the cases involve boys. Penetration is rare, as is violence in any form.

Various criteria have been employed for classifying pedophiles. One is based on gender preference: homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. A previous researcher classified homosexual pedophiles into three types:

Another researcher classified pedophiles according to their age: adolescent, middle aged, or senescent. That researcher noted that these are ages of increasing emotional stress during the male life span. He wrote that adolescents tend to be bisexual, middle-aged pedophiles tend to be homosexual, and senescent pedophiles tend to be heterosexual.

Another study proposed that adolescent offenders are psychosexually immature, preferring the company of children because they are less intimidating. Two studies found that middle-aged pedophiles tended to be married but to have severe marital and alcohol problems causing them to “regress” to sex with children. One study concluded that senescent pedophiles turned to children in their senility to satisfy their need for affection and companionship.

The current study examined a sample of 52 offenders aged 15 to 75 who were labeled as “pedophiles.” They were classified as homosexual or heterosexual (there were no bisexuals), and according to age: adolescent—under 20, middle age—20 to 49, and senescent—50 to 75. This resulted in six age-orientation groups. The study sought to determine whether these groups exhibited different characteristics, as found by previous studies.

The study was based on clinical data, sexual behavior assessments, and family and social history. Results did not support the claim that different age groups tended to exhibit certain sexual orientations. There were also few statistically significant differences in psychological variables among the six age-orientation groups. The heterosexuals seemed to suffer more from anxiety neuroses and had more negative attitudes toward homosexuality.

The three age groups did differ in occupation and employment status. The adolescents were more likely to be students, unskilled workers, or unemployed. They also tended to be deficient in sex drive and affect, and more likely to be resentful or hostile. The senescent pedophiles were deficient in sex drive, strong in affect, and not aroused by heterosexual pedophilia. Other variables did not show significant differences between groups. The vast majority of all groups were non-violent.

Since 1964, the vast majority of clinical research has followed the classification schemes and variables used in this study. However, the findings of this study did not always agree with those of the earlier research. The authors conclude, “the sexual preference of the offender based groupings and the age of offender based groupings did not reveal statistically significant differences which would result in distinct discernable groups.” One finding on which they did agree, however, was the conclusion that the vast majority of child molesters were non-violent.

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