Pedophilia is a diagnostic category and considered a sexual disorder in the DSM-IV-TR (American Psychiatric Association, 2000). Defined as sexual activity with a child age 13 or younger, pedophiles are usually attracted to children within a certain age range and gender. There are two types of pedophiles:
- Exclusive Pedophiles - those who are only sexually attracted to children.
- Non-exclusive Pedophiles - those who are sometimes attracted to adults.
Pedophiles perform sexual acts with children with varying degrees of force. Activities are usually explained to children with excuses or rationalizations, such their having "educational value," "or the child gaining "sexual pleasure" from them, or that the child was "sexually provocative." These themes are common in pedophilic pornography.
Pedophiles often threaten the child to prevent disclosure. Pedophiles may limit their sexual activity to their own children or relatives or may victimize other children. Many pedophiles develop complicated techniques for obtaining access to children. This includes, but is not limited to, winning the mother's trust, marrying a woman with an attractive child, trading children with other pedophiles, taking in foster children, abducting children, volunteering in organizations with children (e.g., Boy Scouts, coaching softball). Many pedophiles treat children with attentiveness, gaining their affection and loyalty. This is one of the reasons that so few victims disclose. Pedophiles also target children that appear needy - from homes where the child is left alone for significant periods of time or homes in which the child's love/affection/comfort needs are not being met.
Many individuals with pedophilic fantasies, urges, and behaviors do not experience significant distress about their behavior. Their actions are internally consistent with their view of self and the world. Individuals who have a pedophilic arousal pattern and act on fantasies or urges about sex with children qualify for the diagnosis of pedophilia. The disorder usually begins in adolescence, although some people report not being attracted to children until middle age. The frequency of pedophilic behaviors often varies according to the individual's stress. Pedophilia is a chronic behavior. The recidivism rate for individuals, if treated, is higher for those attracted to males (approximately twice that of those attracted to females). Diagnostic criteria for Pedophilia:
- Over a period of at least 6 months, the person has recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a child 13 years or younger.
- Either the person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies have caused marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
- The person having these urges/behaviors is at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the child to whom attracted.
Sex offenders are typed according to victim preference and behavior. The most famous typology was done by Groth in 1979 (Groth & Birnbaum). Child molesters were divided into two types, regressed and fixated. Regressed offenders were at one time sexually active with adult opposite-sex partners. Situational stressors such as unemployment, physical disability, or loss of sexual confidence led to a transfer of sexual need to less threatening partners (children). Groth found that approximately 51% of child molesters were of this type. A fixated child molester is a person who was attracted to children throughout life and constitutes 49% of child molesters. This type of sex offender is also referred to as a pedophile.
The preferential molester is primarily attracted to children and is the most dangerous category of child molester. The FBI reports a preferential molester (pedophile) having a lifetime average of 282 incidents of abuse with an average 150 victims. The preferential molester is highly skilled at grooming, is deceptive, and is committed to a lifestyle of seducing children. This group of sex offenders tends to have more professionals with higher incomes. They engage in activities that are predictable and ritualized. They generally access a child through friendship with adults with whom a strong trust bond is present. The victims do not disclose and no one ever knows. In these situations, the child sees no escape. Types of preferential molesters include:
- Seducers. This type courts a child over a time period. They often have multiple victims simultaneously, perhaps all from the same ballteam, school class, or neighborhood.
- Introverted. Interpersonal skills are lacking, and they target the least resistant child, the youngest and most vulnerable. The introverted type may spend time with children but not engage in direct touching sexual activity. They may masturbate while watching children or expose themselves to children.
- Sadistic. This is the most dangerous type of child offender. Their goal is sexual activity with a child plus the infliction of pain, both emotional and physical. This is the offender who kidnaps, abuses, and then kills a child. This is the least common type of child molester, having the fewest number of victims.
Preferential child molesters have four common characteristics:
- Long-term sexual problems. More likely to have been sexually abused as children or grew up in highly sexualized environment. Acted out sexually as teenager and may have history of sex-related problems in adulthood.
- Often do not marry or marry as a cover for their preferred sexual activity, exhibiting low sex drive in marriage. May marry to access partner's children. Socially inept with few adult friendships.
- Skilled in seduction. Target victims who are needy, neglected, or from home without father figure, then meet need in child. They access children through activities involving children or in work or neighborhood. They groom children with affection and attention and through bribery (gifts and money).
- Sexual fantasies involving children. They over-associate with children, and their homes may be filled with children's toys and games. They often collect or produce child pornography.
Courts and Law Enforcement categorize offenders according to risk of recidivism (repeating offenses). A common legal typology of offenders is:
- Sexually oriented offenders who plead guilty to a sexual offense but are not categorized a sexual predator or habitual offender. He reports in with law enforcement annually for 10 years.
- Habitual sex offenders who have been convicted or plead guilty to a sex offense and had a prior sex charge for which he was convicted or plead guilty. He must check in with law enforcement annually for 20 years.
- Sexual predators. He has been convicted or plead guilty to a sexual offense and is believed likely to reoffend. His charge involved sexual violence, or the court determined him a predator. He must register and notify law enforcement of his residence every 90 days for his lifetime. Law enforcement is required to notify school superintendents, police chiefs, day care operators, and neighbors within 1000 feet of his residence.