What is Pedophilia?

Exposing Pedophilia

You probably have your own definition of this sexually deviant behavior, but no matter what your opinion, one thing is certain: pedophilia is real and it impacts the lives of not just the perpetrators and their victims, but also the relatives, friends and almost everyone else associated with them.

What is Pedophilia?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines pedophilia as: “The act or fantasy on the part of an adult of engaging in sexual activity with a child or children.[1]” It’s important to point out that the children affected by pedophilia are prepubescent boys and girls (13 years old or younger). When teenagers are involved, the proper term is ephebophilia.

Classified as a mental disorder, pedophilia is just one of several included under the Paraphilia family. As mentioned above, pedophilia does not always involve physical contact between adult and child. But regardless, the thoughts or the actual act is the way the person reaches sexual excitement and gratification.


The stereotypical man in a trench coat that flashes children or masturbates in the presence of children is a pedophile. So is the person who undresses or fondles a child even though no contact with the child’s genitals was made (assuming other criteria are met).

The instances of pedophilia we hear about most usually do involve physical contact with the child, with or without force. In these instances the child is made to perform intercourse and/or participate in oral sex with the adult.

To be considered pedophilia, there needs to be a recurrence of these intense fantasies, urges and/or behavior, all of which bring about sexual arousal, for a period of 6 months or longer. These intense thoughts, fantasies and/or acts must also cause the person distress or impair his or her ability to function within the range of what’s considered “normal” behavior in their jobs, their social interactions and other parts of their lives.

What can be done about Pedophilia?

Pedophilia treatment is complex and not always effective. It may involve a number of cognitive-behavioral intervention techniques that help the person change his/her sexual interest in children to that of adults and prevent relapse. It may also involve psychosurgery (i.e. castration). Another approach is pharmacological intervention including use of hormonal agents and/or drugs that increase serotonin levels; both of which help the affected individual gain more control over these urges and fantasies.

Pedophilia treatment, if it’s even undertaken, is a long process in which few are wiling to become involved. Society as a whole would rather the child molester be locked away for good and allow other convicted felons to punish the perpetrator once incarcerated. Determining at what point the convicted pedophile should cease being incarcerated and instead be transferred to the appropriate medical facility for treatment is also a difficult decision that law and mental health professionals face.

Unfortunately, the possibility of relapse is always a concern especially since it’s not possible to anticipate until the pedophile has actually acted out again.

Many believe a preventative approach is the best approach to dealing with pedophilia. Caregivers must first understand the problem itself and then reduce the opportunities in which a pedophile can act. Difficult yes, but possible. Unfortunately such an approach is necessary because statistics show that as many as 67% of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles under age 18 and 34% were under age 12.[2]


[1] The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

[2] http://www.cpiu.us/statistics.php