Historically, psychoanalytic theories have been based on the agreement that normal sexuality involves the attraction to adults of the opposite gender, and has as its goal genital orgasm. Other sexual attractions and behaviors have been defined as deviant or paraphilias.
Like psychoanalytic theories in general, theories about pedophilia typically involve ideas about child sexuality, fixation at an infantile developmental stage, Oedipal conflict, projection, castration anxiety, and narcissism. Any sexual behaviors that resemble childhood activities are assumed to indicate "regression" to, or "fixation" at, an immature stage, and are assumed to be due to some developmental difficulty in childhood, usually involving Freudís "Oedipus complex."
Psychoanalytic theories suffer from three shortcomings:
- They are based on observations of very small numbers of highly atypical pedophiles; sometimes they have no basis in the study of pedophiles at all.
- The few studies that have tested the hypothesis that pedophilia is due to fixation at an immature stage of development do not support that theory.
- In general, psychoanalytic theories have been discredited; many researchers suggest that they are untestable, unscientific, and useless.