3. MHAM and child molestation
Pedophilia and ephebophilia are not the same as child molestation.
- Scientists classify people as pedophiles and ephebophiles based on psychological criteria -- their sexual feelings for children or adolescents -- rather than legal criteria (whether or not they have engaged in sexual activity with a child or adolescent).7
- Child molesters, sex offenders against minors, and child sex abusers are classified as such based on legal criteria -- the violation of laws prohibiting sexual activity with a person under the legally-defined age of consent.
- Pedophiles and ephebophiles may or may not act on their sexual feelings. There is evidence that many abstain from sex with minors, but it is unknown how many do so.8
- Several studies show that a majority of child molesters are not preferentially attracted to children, and therefore are not pedophiles.9 They often engage in sex with children because of situational factors such as marital problems, alcoholism, or unavailability of adults.10
Thus, many child molesters are not pedophiles or ephebophiles, and an unknown number of pedophiles and ephebophiles are not child molesters. Child molestation and sex offenses are crimes. Pedophilia and ephebophilia are not.
For more information about definitions and distinctions, see the section on this site about terminology.