Cognitive theories are based on the assumption that pedophilia is a form of sexual aggression. Theorists suggest that sexual aggression results when an individualís cognitive distortions about the meaning and impact of sexually aggressive behavior allows him to justify it. He may think the victim enjoys or benefits from the act, or at least is not harmed by it.
- One cognitive theory proposes that dispositional and situational factors contribute to this aggression. These factors may include aggressive personality, cognitive distortions, sexual dissatisfaction, alcohol, or family violence.
- Another conceptualizes sexual aggression as an addiction involving impulsive and compulsive behavior.
- Another theory proposes that pedophiles perceive relationships in terms of dominance and submissiveness, perceive themselves as incapable of controlling their social environment, and perceive children as submissive and therefore approachable.
These theories have serious limitations.
- They are based on observations of sex offenders rather than scientific studies of pedophiles in the general population.9
- Studies of personality characteristics through the use of psychological measures, such as the MMPI, on average have found low levels of aggression among both pedophiles and offenders against minors.10
- The available evidence suggests that aggressive behavior is rare in pedophilic incidents; they resemble sex play more than sexual assault.11
9. Hall, 1996; Okami & Goldberg, 1992. For more details about the crucial distinction between sex offenders and pedophiles, see the section in this site on important distinctions.
10. Bradford et al., 1988; Okami & Goldberg, 1992; Wilson & Cox, 1983.
11. Bradford et al., 1988; Constantine, 1981; Crawford, 1981; Hall, 1996; Howells, 1981; Ingram, 1981; Okami & Goldberg, 1992; Virkkunen, 1981; West, 1998; West & Woodhouse, 1990.