Male Homosexual Attraction to Minors Information Center
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Youth issues

Attraction to younger boys

There is no information regarding when ephebophilia first appears in males.

For pedophilia, however, criminological research claims that it first appears in adolescence, as does offending behavior. These statistics should be regarded with caution, since they often do not distinguish between pedophilia and child molestation.

No information is available about the development of pedophilia or ephebophilia in the general population, or about effective ways to help adolescents who are developing it. Psychologist Jay Feierman of the University of New Mexico decries the absence of resources available to help them come to terms with and express their sexuality in socially acceptable ways.5

Treatment for boys attracted to younger boys

Intervention occurs only when the youth is suspected or convicted of a sex offense. It may involve the following components:6

CSOM recommends the suspension of the youth’s sentence contingent upon successful completion of treatment. It also notes several controversial areas which "pose special ethical and legal risks for practitioners":

CSOM concludes that clinicians should develop additional consent forms to cover the use of the plethysmograph, aversive conditioning, and unapproved drugs, and that clients should understand that these procedures are voluntary and that they are free to decline them.7

Sexual relationships with men

Very little research has examined how boys experience willing sexual activity or relationships with men. Because of mandatory reporting laws, such research cannot be conducted in the U.S. today. However, there do exist some older studies, studies from outside the U.S., and studies conducted after the relationships ended. This research is described in the annotated bibliography on the next page.

Non-clinical and non-criminological studies generally find that children and adolescents who have been involved in sexual activity with adults, generally considered CSA, show a range of reactions and effects ranging from positive to negative. Most researchers find that there is little evidence that such involvement results in a typical pattern of symptoms, or specific types of dissociative disorders.8

There has been a rapid growth in therapies for these youth, but little evidence for their effectiveness.9 Furthermore, when considering whether to place such a youth in therapy, researchers say it is important to remember that CSA is not a disorder to be treated, but rather an event which may or may not have negative effects, and that these effects vary from person to person. Thus, it is these negative effects, if they exist, which should be treated, rather than CSA. Treatment when there are no negative effects can result in iatrogenic harm.10

Annotated bibliography

Ingram, M., "Participating victims: A study of sexual offenses with boys," in Constantine, L.L. & Martinson, F.M. (eds.), Children and sex: New findings, new perspectives, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1981, pp. 177-187.

British child counselor Michael Ingram describes cases of man-boy sexual interaction that involved 74 prepubescent boys he saw in his practice. The interactions mainly involved sex-play and/or affection. Almost all of the boys participated willingly, but often did so because they were seeking love. Most of the cases involved affection, and while the affectionate aspect of the interaction may have been meaningful for both man and boy, the sexual aspect was meaningful mostly only for the man.

Oellerich, T.D., "Child Sexual Abuse: Is the Routine Provision of Psychotherapy Warranted?"*, Issues In Child Abuse Accusations, vol. 11, no. 1, 2001.

Ohio University Social Work Professor Thomas Oellerich cites evidence that psychotherapy for child sexual abuse is of unproven effectiveness and may actually cause harm. In addition, treatment is useful only when there is demonstrable harm. Those children not harmed by sexual contact with adults may be harmed iatrogenically by therapy through efforts to undo "denial" or have them relive the experience.

Sandfort, T., Boys on their contacts with men: A study of sexually expressed friendships, New York: Global Academic Publishers, 1987.

University of Utrecht researcher Theo Sandfort interviewed 25 boys ranging in age from 10 to 16, who were in ongoing sexual relationships with men. The object of the study was to investigate exactly how the boys felt about these relationships. Sandfort describes how the relationships began, what occurred in them (both sexual and non-sexual activities), the boys’ feelings about those activities, how the power difference operated in the relationships, and the impact of the opinions of parents and friends.

Savin-Williams, R., And Then I Became Gay: Young Men's Stories, New York: Routledge, 1998.

Cornell University psychologist Ritch C. Savin-Williams interviewed 180 gay and bisexual males age 14-25. His study did not intend to focus on relationships between men and boys, but such relationships were a part of the lives of a significant minority of the youth in his sample. He describes two types of sexual encounters: the first time the boy had gay sex, and his first gay romance. He discusses the boys’ motivations, feelings, and reactions regarding their experiences with men, and compares these experiences to those with peers.

Tindall, R., "The Male Adolescent Involved With a Pederast Becomes an Adult", Journal of Homosexuality, vol. 3, no. 4, 1978, pp. 373-382.

This study by psychologist Ralph Tindall describes in detail nine sexual relationships between men and adolescent boys from the boy’s point of view. Tindall performed a longitudinal study (over 30 years) of these cases taken from 200 similar ones involving his school-age clients. Their reason for treatment typically had not been the sexual activity; rather, the activity had come up incidentally to discussion of other issues.

Virkkunen, M., "The child as participating victim," in Cook, M. & Howells, K. (eds.), Adult sexual interest in children, London: Academic Press, 1981, pp. 121-134.

Helsinki University psychiatrist Matti Virkkunen presents statistics on the percent of sex offenses against boys in which the boy resisted, accepted, and encouraged the sexual advance.

Wolf, T.L. & Campbell, T.W., "Effective Treatment for Children in Cases of Extrafamilial Sexual Abuse"* Issues In Child Abuse Accusations, vol. 6, no. 4, 1994.

Wolf & Campbell present scientific evidence that individual psychotherapy for sexually abused children is not effective. They also write that excessive treatment when there is little or no harm creates the risk of iatrogenic harm. Their paper outlines a family therapy technique which responds directly to the clinical condition of the child.


1. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1999*; Center for Sex Offender Management, 1999*.
2. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1999*.
3. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1999*; Center for Sex Offender Management, 1999*.
4. Abel & Harlow, 2001*.
5. Feierman, 1990b.
6. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1999*; Center for Sex Offender Management, 1999*. For more details about treatment methods, see the section on this site about treatment.
7. Center for Sex Offender Management, 1999*. For more details about ethical issues related to treatment, see the section on this site about ethics.
8. Beitchman et al., 1992; Constantine, 1981; Fergusson & Mullen, 1999; Ingram, 1981; Kilpatrick, 1987. For more information on the effects on boys of sexual interaction with adults, see the section on this site about effects.
9. Fergusson & Mullen, 1999; Oellerich, 2001*.
10. Oellerich, 2001*; Wolf & Campbell, 1994*.
*offsite articles
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