Psychology Addict # 66 | Paedophilia.

in #psychology2 years ago (edited)

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I’ve been meaning to discuss this topic on the platform for quite a while now. But I’ve always been put off by the understanding that this is a subject people don’t really want to talk about. Of course not. It’s unpleasant and sad. Nonetheless, similar to so many issues in life, one of the reasons they exist as they do it’s partly because we have a tendency to cover our eyes and block our ears and voices to it.

So, here we go.

I’ve written this piece with the intention to raise awareness as well as debunk some misunderstandings about paedophilia. This is a delicate topic and although I have not included any detailed case study to illustrate the discussion, it still contains triggers.

If you are someone who might be triggered by this discussion, this is the time to stop reading the post.


What is Paedophilia?

At present, in the world of research, paedophilia is seen as a sexual preference Ref.. Like, for example: heterosexuality or homosexuality. It so happens that the focus of sexual interest here rests on (pre-pubescent) age rather than on gender, as in hetero/homosexuality, for instance. In this way, psychiatric guidelines (the DSM-5) only considers paedophilia to be a mental disorder – Pedophilic Disorder – when the actual sexual interest causes distress and lifestyle impairment for those who experience it Ref..

But then paedophilia rarely manifests itself in isolation.

In other words, paedophilic individuals more often than not have a history of mental health issues that range from mood + anxiety and personality disorders to addiction and OCD, just to name a few Ref.. Further, research found that among a population of sexual offenders, those who engaged in child sexual offending present significantly higher levels of psychopathology and emotional instability than those who sexually offended against adults and adolescents Ref..

Please bear in mind that researchers arrived at these sort of findings after carrying out studies in individuals who actually have assaulted children.

It Gets More Complicated than That.

These research findings do not directly connect the offending behaviour with paedophilia. You’ve read it right. Sadly, there is a variety of factors - other than paedophilia, that lead children to being sexually abused. Namely, sexually curious uninformed adolescents (and individuals with mental disabilities) who decide to explore on a younger child Ref., criminals with antisocial personality disorders Ref., and traumatized people with a history of violence, abuse and impulsive behaviour Ref..

You see, the notion that all perpetrators of child abuse are paedophiles is a mistaken one, as assault against children also results from reasons other than sexual attraction/preference towards them.

This is a good opportunity to debunk further misconceptions surrounding the topic:

Understandably, some of our beliefs are guided and shaped by media representations and the entertainment industry, which often stereotype people and dangerously pigeon-hole them.

Whilst we’re pushed to be over concerned about the “peculiar” older man who lives down the street. We tend to overlook the reality that nearly one third of children are abused by adolescents under 17 years of age Ref.. Or, we dismiss the possibility of women engaging in such misconduct.

During his time as a prison officer, criminologist D. Wilson came to understand how often mothers, aunts, sisters and female cousins introduced male family members to sexual activities.

From his dialogues with Dean (an inmate), Wilson says (p. 33):

[…] she [Dean’s older sister] continued to touch him inappropriately when she was certain no one else could see. It was a game to her […]

How Widespread is Paedophilia?

It appears that there is no agreement as to whether paedophilia actually exists among women in the way that it’s currently defined Ref. (as a sexual preference).

Still, 24% of abused boys and up to 14% of abused girls revealed their abusers to have been a woman Ref.. These female perpetrators share similar psychopathologies to those seen in male perpetrators. But in addition, females involved in cases of child abuse frequently have male counterparts Ref..

Among men in the general population, the existence of paedophilia as an exclusively sexual preference is estimated to be around 1% Ref.. However, the number goes up to 5% when sexual fantasies featuring children are included Ref.

It was after extrapolating findings obtained from studies conducted in groups of offenders (see, for example, Ahlers et al., 2011) and of non-offenders, that researchers arrived to this conclusion Ref..

When Briere and Runtz Ref., for example, surveyed 193 healthy male college students through anonymous self-report, they saw 21% of respondents admitting to have a certain level of sexual interest in children.

This piece of info leads me to highlight the fact that not all paedophilic individuals are offenders or criminals. Contrarily to what’s generally believed.

What Prompts Paedophilia, then?

In terms of the neurobiology and neuropsychology of paedophilia a complex interplay of phenomena including the influence of genetics, external factors, brain function and formation have been explored. Going into each one of them is beyond the scope of this write-up. Besides, it’s useful to keep in mind that important limitations permeate the findings of overall research on paedophilia, chief among them being the recruitment of both child sexual offenders and paedophilic individuals for study groups Ref..

We’ve discussed before these are not necessarily the same thing.

Hence, many aspects that are seen in the criminal population in general are also associated with paedophilia. For example: reduced amygdala volume, head injuries, lower IQ and so forth Ref..

However, I’m drawn to studies relating paedophilia to dysfunction on the prefrontal and temporal cortexes. As it’s been additionally found that offending paedophilic individuals have a decreased glucose metabolism in these very brain regions Ref.., which further explains both their poor impulse control and the over sexual preoccupation with the object of their desire Ref..

What About Family & Social Environment?

It goes without saying that children need to feel constantly loved and safe throughout their upbringing. So then, they can form a functional and healthy view of the world as well as a well-developed sense of morality, which in turn, enables their decision making processes to be guided by empathy and self-control.

Yet, research reveals that the overwhelming majority of child psychological and physical abuse is caused by parents or primary caregivers Ref.. And, over and over again studies demonstrate a strong relationship between criminal behaviour and adverse childhood events. Fortunately, opposite to popular belief, research also shows that the majority of abused children do not go on to prey on children later on in life Ref.. In fact, 8.2% of sexually abused individuals report being sexually attracted to children and young teens Ref..

What About Non-Offending Paedophilic Individuals?

describe their experience as aging while their attractions did not age with them.
(Cantor & McFail, 2016, p.23)

By now I trust you understand these individuals are those who feel sexually drawn to children but have not acted upon their desires and impulses. To my knowledge there isn’t a large body of research on these individuals (greatly due to the huge stigma surrounding the topic, even when there is no offense involved).

However, through anonymous self-reports non-offenders confess they become aware of their unusual sexual interest as they step into adulthood and ‘describe their experience as aging while their attractions did not age with them’. A small number of non-offender paedophilic individuals also report having romantic feelings towards children and fantasise having a romantic relationship with them Ref..

A few studies have repeatedly seen these individual’s paedophilic preferences highly correlate with great time invested in: the use of adult pornography, the pursuit of sexual pleasure and the realisation of sexual fantasies Ref..

Based on such findings, treatment programs are beginning to be developed to help non-offenders to remain as such and to provide them with psychological support in order to alleviate the mental distress that permeates their lives (e.g. guilt, shame, suicidal ideation and so on) Ref..

The Impact of Child Sexual Abuse.

Child sexual abuse is not to be taken lightly as it’s associated with a wide range of mental health difficulties that go from substance dependence to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As adults, we’re responsible for the protection of our children. And protecting children also entails having a deeper understanding of whatever and whoever can cause them harm. But we cannot gain understanding about something if we close our eyes, mouths and ears to it.

Neither can we understand something by looking at it through the lens of discrimination and disgust. Approaching the topic of paedophilia and paedophilic individuals from a non-judgemental perspective – this is tricky even for psychologists! - does not mean to hold less regard for those who fall prey to it.

Quite the contrary. Through courageously informing ourselves about this difficult topic not only do we obtain a greater sense of what victims go through, but we’re also more prepared to make our children less vulnerable.

Sexual activities without consent is sexual assault and consent is only obtained if a person agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.

(Sexual Offenses Act, 2003)

Image source : 1

Reference List:

Heterosexual male perpetrators of childhood sexual abuse: a preliminary neuropsychiatric model.

How do you treat very young sexual offenders?

How unusual are the contents of paraphilias? Paraphilia-associated sexual arousal patterns in a community-based sample of men.

Non-offending paedophiles..

Serial rapist Joseph McCann given 33 life sentences.

Sexually assaulted children: National estimates and characteristics.

The neurobiology and psychology of paedophilia: recent advances and challenges.

University males’ sexual interest in children: predicting potential indices of “pedophilia” in a nonforensic sample.

Wilson, D. (2019), My life with murderers, Sphere, London.


Thank you my dear reader, for once again taking the time to read my writings :)

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead!

All the best,


Dear Abigail,
How brave of you to address this subject. But of course it is your profession, and your intellectual inclination, to understand, and to foster understanding. Numbers don't lie, and the great number of children who are sexually abused argues for discussion. The issue won't go away if we close our minds to it.

One of the distinctions you make--between those who are inclined and those who act--is one generally made for all transgressive behavior, I think. But the thought of crossing boundaries when it comes to a thief, or even a murderer, does not repel us as much as does the thought of paedophilia. I think this is precisely because of what you mention near the end of your blog. We are responsible for children. If they are abused, it is because we have in some way failed to protect them.

As I read this I thought of your blog about The Joker. You approached that subject with the same balanced intelligence. We can't ignore the paedophiles and Jokers, because they exist. And by not acknowledging the mechanism that leads to these aberrations, we only push people further into the periphery and lose any chance of redeeming the redeemable.

I'll be reading the blog again, to check on some of the references. And I'll try to find a place of understanding for those who do not act on an appetite they find to be a burden.

I hope you are well and peaceful Abigail. Such a pleasure to see you writing here again.

With affection, appreciation and ever growing respect,
Your friend,


My dear friend <3 :), your insights never seize to amaze me. And thank you so much for linking this topic to my discussion on Joker, it truly is much the same thing. Non-offenders are marginalized because they have no one to turn to (not even prepared professionals in the mental health service), and offenders are forever denied forgiveness and any level of dignity.

By stigmatizing non-offenders we give them away to those who have the same interests but who don't deal with it in a healthy way. Through ostracizing offenders we only increase the chance of recidivism. Society is part of the problem, but doesn't want to take responsibility for it. Still, for this realization to emerge we need a better understanding of it, which we can only obtain by being open :)

Thank you for being open to it my dear @agmoore2, and for being empathetic in acknowledging the burden this condition is for those who live with it but have no intention to harm anybody. This is often all some of those men need to hear, that there is someone out there open to understand their troubles. You're amazing <3

Everything is fine here. Life is busy, but very good :) I hope you are keeping yourself warm and healthy over there. It's sunny & rather cold in Lisbon. It's beautiful.

Much love to you always and forever - from across the ocean :*

There is a world of difference between actions and thoughts.

Thoughts need not - should not - be punished.
Actions on the other hand....

Equally, these thoughts that are socially/morally repugnant, are probably thoughts best not expressed...ever.?

Hum ... interesting question. I follow the belief that there are somethings that shouldn't be said. But this would be, let's say, in a family or work environment. There are things that serve no purpose other than hurting.

When it comes to disordered thinking, however, if it causes overwhelming distress and the individual afflicted by it cannot come around it. It's time to express it. To a professional or a trusted loved one. It's no wonder why psychotherapy is known as the 'talking cure', more often than not people just need to share the burden in order to put things in perspective :)

lol - 'the talking cure' is exactly how I would sum up psychotherapy.

(correlation does not mean causation, but the breakdown in closer familial/ interpersonal relations over the last 30 years, it has correlated to the massive rise in use of 'these services'. I include 'self help gurus', and it's offshoots of, in this category).

I follow the belief that there are somethings that shouldn't be said. But this would be, let's say, in a family or work environment.

These are the social norms, and part of the 'rules' people buy into - which are very valid.

There are things that serve no purpose other than hurting.

( mosquitoes? lol..... little bastards).

Having been accused of this heinous activity myself once or twice (believe it or not), it's a pastime I've never indulged in. Surely that is the playground of the 'psychopath type' person?

My intent to help, however, was very often misconstrued - or totally misunderstood- by lesser mortals.... as being 'intentionally hurting'.
I suppose a dentist gets the same accusations thrown at them also. lol

My dear Abigail,
I think you know I am very impressionable, easily affected. So it's important that I screen out negative elements from my field of vision. Your blogs are deeply processed. Each one has an effect on me that endures, and becomes part of my life experience. So of course I remember The Joker blog. I found it interesting, when that movie won awards recently, that the star echoed some of your sentiments: we have to look at aberrant behavior and understand it. We can't just lock people away or write them off. That leads nowhere.

Thank you for your kind words. You know they make a difference in my day.

Can't tell you how proud I am that you have the courage to address an extremely unappealing topic that will displease many people. But I think you strive to be an instrument of positive change. And sometimes it isn't easy to be that.

I'm so happy it's beautiful in Lisbon, and that you can appreciate the beauty though it is wrapped in chill.

With respect--always respect--and love,
Your friend


That is such a difficult topic to discuss but you did a really great job at it. That was very informative and interesting and really gets you thinking about the issue in another way. Research on the subject would be extremely challenging for a lot of reasons and I'm sure that the research is very limited. But without research we will never truly understand the issue and how to be proactive in preventing it, so research is extremely important. Hopefully more researchers will begin to tackle the issue and add to our limited understanding of it.

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Hey @leaky20,

It is always wonderful to receive your comments. Thanks for stopping by once more :)

I 100% share your views about the importance of research on this topic. As impossible as it may be! In the mental health field professionals need to be more prepared to deal with cases of non-offenders. The complexity here lies in finding the balance between keeping in mind: (1) public safety (is there a real risk here?) and (2) dealing with the client objectively and holistically (not seeing him/her as a pedophilic individual only). This wisdom, however, can only mostly be drawn from research. As you point out.

Regarding offenders ... well, as I see it, the situation is a LOT more complicated. There is no redemption for these individuals in our current society. And of course, the way they are pushed to the fringes of it only alienates them further and enhances all the psychological/behavioural problems they battle with. In turn, increasing chances of recidivism. It's a mess! But then again, it's pretty impossible to remain unbiased towards pedophilic offense :/

Thank you once again @leaky20 & even though we're already heading towards the end of Jan. I wish you and your wife a new year filled with prosperity, tranquility and good-health.
All the best to you two :)

You've raised a very nice topic Abbey. A few months ago, I saw a viral video of a nanny sexually abusing a toddler. I mean, this is so sad.

The issue of paedophilia is something that needs to be treated with swift action. You won't believe that there are some cultures that still support child marriage. So sad.

I used to think that underage sexual abuses were gender specific until I stumbled on a poll on Twitter where so many men owned up that, at a point in their lives while growing up, they were sexually abused by even close relatives; aunties et all.

Any case of paedophilia should not be taken lightly because many of the kids that go through this abuse grow up with the trauma still reverberating within them. This is why parents and guardians should be careful of who their kids hang out with and who they leave their kids with.

Thanks for sharing this awesome piece, Abbey. Much love from Nigeria.

My goodness Sammi! Who posts this sort of video?

Now, I am concerned about that child AND the nanny. How young was she? A teenager, or an older lady? I'm hoping that the abuse did not happen regularly, and that that child has a loving, caring family environment from which he/she can still draw a sense of care, love and safety :(

Parents so badly need to be careful of who they leave their children with. Oh God!

I am glad you found this topic to be an important one to be discussed here Sammi. Thank you for providing further evidence to some of the information that I wrote here. It goes to show how real and widespread this problem is!

Much love to you my dear :*
Take care over there <3 :)

It's been a while I read from you. Either I've been too busy or you've not been writing. Nevertheless, I'm glad to be reading about this topic from you.

I'm a bit surprised by this

Still, 24% of abused boys and up to 14% of abused girls revealed their abusers to have been a woman

I've never for once thought about associating pedophilic behaviour with the female gender. I'm not sure it makes the news as much as those associated with males. Perhaps that unconsciously shaped my view that most pedophilic folks are men.

Then, if pedophilia is more of psychological issue, isn't it proper that pedophilic individuals be helped rather than jailed? Take the case of the popular r and b singer, Robert Kelly who's currently serving term due to pedophilic behaviour.

Lastly, I will be sharing this on my twitter account in the hope that it will provoke some discussion. There's a particular tribe here in Nigeria that marries out pre-pubescent female children to full grown adult. I have some of them as followers and I hope they will react to this.

I feel really awesome reading from you again abii. Hope you are doing great along with your beautiful family!

My dearest fried Shaid <3 :) how nice to see your insightful words on my comment feed!

You get it (of course you do!) : Individuals living with paedophilic disorder are in great need of psychological help. And, not only due to their paedophilia tendencies, but also due to a large host of psychopathologies they battle with day-in, day-out.

In my opinion, the ones who go on to act upon their urges should not escape time in prison. After all they've committed a crime. But, this does not take away from them the right to receiving treatment, having a second chance in life and being treated with respect by others.

I am very interested in reading about the Nigeria tribe you mentioned here. I read a long time ago about New Guinean tribes that have this same cultural custom.

We have all been very busy, haven't we? and you still manage to take time to come around and read my work <3 thank you so much my dear friend.

I send you, your wife & the little one bags of love from sunny, but cold Portugal :*

Wow. tough subject. Somehow I've finished this a sense of compassion for the non-offenders. I'll get back to this post later. Thanks for the food for thought

Tough, tough, tough! And you are all amazing for taking the time to explore the topic with an open mind :)

You don't know how pleased your words made me feel dear @owasco:

I've finished this a sense of compassion for the non-offenders.

But I am not surprised. Through your words here one notices you're an individual guided by compassion. Compassion towards others and towards your self.

Of course my intention here was never ask for understanding towards pedophilia as an offense, but to raise awareness about it as a phenomenon. If through this new acquired awareness people find a place in their hearts to be empathetic towards those who are afflicted by it. My goodness ... I can only be grateful for it :)

Ps: Yesterday I stopped by your blog and read both your latest haiku and one of your replies to a reader:

[...]It has me looking at everything with new eyes.[...]

I've written those words down on my pad. They are very inspirational. So, I wanted to let you know that you inspired me with them :)

Have a good rest of the day and weekend ahead!
As for me ... away from social media till Monday ;) - I've been keeping it up!

<3 :D

Oh I so want to do that as well. I'm addicted! Have a great weekend.
Thanks for your kind kind words about me. I am pleased that comes through my writings.

I'm addicted!

😅 No wonder! It's so fun :)


A hard topic to discuss. Your posts are always thought provoking so thank you for writing so well and drawing attention to topics that are both very interesting to people and those that not talked about.

I am so pleased with how you guys have received this post @sjarvie5, with an open mind and non-judgmentally. I truly appreciate the fact you took the time to read about this complicated topic and acknowledge its difficulty.

I wish you a wonderful day ahead and a good week too :)

Abigail, I miss your posts!

Hello @sjarvie5 ,

Thank you for your lovely message. I truly miss blogging and being around interacting with the community. But, in all honesty, I'm not certain when I'll have the availability to be active on Hive again. 2020 has been a crazy year ... extra busy and overwhelming.

I do trust you, your brother and all your loved ones are staying strong-minded and healthy.

Take care :*

Thank you for sharing this interesting topic Abigail.

It is truly a shame that this type of disorder exists and it is painful because the children are the victims.

Hello @caloserp-2000 :)

I am very pleased to hear you found this content interesting to read. It is sad indeed that the human mind is visited by such disorders, especially when they lead to the victimization of the most innocent of creatures!

Thank you for stopping by and leaving some words of encouragement.
I hope that everything is fine with you and your family.

All the best :)

Interesting topic, especially in France where scandals on this matter happens on a regular basis (especially when priests are involved). This is the first post from you I read for a while (because I was away) and it triggers my interest (as just said, I live in a country where such things happen (too) often).

I was actually a bit shocked to read to cases involving women, which is something no one talks about (usually) and it is quite significant, as are the silent cases.

Therefore, thanks for debunking those things! :)

Hi @lemouth :)

It's nice to see you've got some available time for the platform. Thank you for taking the time to read my work and participate in the discussion once again :)

I think this is an interesting topic too. Sadly, it seems like it's not only in France where this awful offense (often) takes place. And supposedly from where it's should be least expected.

This is one of the reasons why I thought it would be important to debate about it here, despite how unappealing it is. I am very pleased about how everyone received it, though :)

Thank you.
Wish you & the family a great week ahead!

I am indeed glad to see many people reacted nicely to the post (and calmly). I know my comments are now the greatest ones here (but at least I have read and brought my 2 cents ;) ).

Have a nice end of the week!


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If there is anything that affects one mentally and socially, it is sexual abuse or assault. I would like to opine that most sexual abuses occur because parents tend to not discuss sex with their children. Parents should endeavour to educate their children on the effect of pre-marital sex.

Hello @tomlee :)

It's true. The harm sexual abuse can cause to people cannot be emphasized enough. And I cannot agree more with you about the essential role parents play in informing and educating their children about sex and sexuality in general, really.

Thank you for your comment.


Glad I could contribute

Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

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Thank you :)

I love to read and see more of your post soon.@abigail-dantes. Greetings from Nigeria ♨️💘💞

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