State of research
Many studies have attempted to show that pedophiles fit a typical personality profile characterized by such traits as social inadequacy, tendency toward anxiety or depression, low intelligence, excessive religiosity, puritanical attitudes, narcissism, gender pathology, psychosexual immaturity, aversion to women and adult sexuality, and lack of aggressiveness.1
These studies have suffered from numerous flaws:
- use of inconsistent or vague moral and legal definitions rather than precise scientific ones, including the confusion of pedophilia with ephebophilia, or pedophiles with sex offenders2
- attempted investigation of characteristics that are ill-defined or ambiguous, or lack measurability3
- reliance on scales that are not validated4
- use of incorrectly reported data5
Reports of personality characteristics of pedophiles are often unreliable.
- Many personality characteristics (such as narcissism, psychosexual immaturity, and aversion to women) have been assumed to exist rather than found to be present through investigation.6
- Others have been based on inconsistent findings, debunked psychodynamic assumptions, or speculation.7
- Still others (such as timidity, depression, or low self-esteem) may actually be present among pedophiles but result from societal reaction rather than pedophilia itself.8
One flaw that characterizes almost every study is the use of incarcerated offenders or clinical populations (those who have received psychological treatment). These studies often overlook the potential dishonesty of offenders.9 Even more importantly, criminal and clinical samples are most likely not representative of pedophiles or ephebophiles in general.10
- Most sex offenders against minors are not pedophiles or ephebophiles.11
- Many pedophiles and ephebophiles may never end up in the criminal justice system. They often interact with children and adolescents in non-sexual ways which are experienced positively. As a result, some may never act on their sexual feelings, and those who do may be unlikely to be reported or prosecuted.12
2. Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
3. Campbell, 1993a*.
4. Langevin, 1983.
5. Langevin, 1983.
6. Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
7. Bradford et al., 1988; Campbell, 1993a*.
8. Langevin, 1983; Okami & Goldberg, 1992; Wilson & Cox, 1983.
9. Langevin, 1983.
10. Campbell, 1993a*; Langevin, 1983; Howells, 1981.
11. Ames & Houston, 1990; Freund, 1981; Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
12. Okami & Goldberg, 1992.
*Will open an off-site article in a new window.