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Mental Health Center

What Is Pedophilia?

Answers to common questions about pedophiles and pedophilia.
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Is pedophilia more common among men or women?

Pedophilic disorder is far more common among men than women, Blanchard says.

Can pedophilia develop in an adult who had been attracted to adults?

That's very unlikely, although some people may become adults "before they become fully aware that their strongest sexual attractions are still toward children and not toward their peers," Blanchard says.

Are pedophiles typically attracted to children of the opposite sex, same sex, or is there no particular pattern?

Most pedophiles have a definite preference for one sex or the other. But it's tough to estimate the percentage of pedophiles who are heterosexual, bisexual, and homosexual in their attraction to children, Blanchard says.

What would you want people to know about the stereotypes about pedophiles?

"People do not choose to be attracted to children or adults any more than they choose to be attracted to males or females," Blanchard says. "If there is any choice in the situation, it is in how pedophiles manage their lives once they become fully aware of the direction of their sexual interests and the societal prohibitions against expressing them."

How do pedophiles typically deal with those feelings?

Some pedophiles embrace and try to justify their sexual orientation. Others recognize that the idea of approaching a child in real life is morally wrong; they can be frustrated, isolated, lonely, depressed, and anxious, Blanchard says.

"It seems conceivable that the stress of living with pedophilic disorder may lead to various secondary psychological problems," Blanchard says. "There are, however, some resilient individuals who manage to lead productive and successful lives, even though their sexuality remains a source of frustration."

If a man or woman has feelings that may be within the range of pedophilia -- even if they've never acted upon those feelings -- what should they do?

Get help. "People who are troubled by their sexual attraction to children should seek professional help rather than try to deal with this problem on their own," Blanchard says. He suggests starting with a family practitioner, although it may take several rounds of referrals. Or search for a sex therapist in your city.

Most areas of North America have mandatory reporting laws that override patient confidentiality. "These require the clinician to report instances of child sexual abuse (or probable imminent abuse) to designated authorities," Blanchard says.

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Reviewed on February 06, 2012

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