Pedophilic Disorder

Pedophilic Disorder is a type of paraphilic disorder that is characterized by recurrent intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving prepubescent or young adolescents, usually under the age of thirteen. It is identified by an individual who is five years older or more than the child who is the victim of the fantasies or behavior patterns. 


The majority of pedophiles are men. Attraction might be directed toward young males, young girls, or both. However, pedophiles prefer opposite-sex children by a 2 to 1 ratio to the same sex child. The adult is usually someone the child knows, such as a family member, step-parent, neighbor, or someone in a position of authority (e.g., a teacher, a coach). Genital contact appears to be less common than seeing or touching.

Many pedophiles will threaten the child to use force or physically hurt their family or pets if they disclose the abuse. 

Pedophilic Disorder

Pedophilic Disorder

Causes of Pedophilic Disorder:

It is unknown what causes pedophilia (and other paraphilias). It is possible that pedophilia runs in families, but it’s unknown if this is due to genetics or taught behavior.

Another possibility with the development of pedophilia is a history of childhood sexual abuse; however this has not been verified. According to behavioral learning theories, a child who witnesses or is the victim of improper sexual activities may be conditioned to replicate such actions.

There are other studies that indicate that a pedophile is more likely to have suffered childhood head trauma when compared to non-pedophiles. 

Symptoms of Pedophilic Disorder:

  • Recurrent strong sexually arousing thoughts, sexual impulses, or actions involving sexual interaction with a prepubescent child for at least 6 months (usually age 13 years or younger).
  • The individual is at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the child.
  • A late adolescent participating in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old is not included.

Risk Factors of Pedophilic Disorder:

There are some people who are at a higher risk of developing pedophilia. There appears to be a link between pedophilia and antisocial personality where individuals who share both features being more likely to engage in sexual conduct with children.  Second, many adult males with pedophilia report having been sexually assaulted as a child which may or may not be indicative of a causal relationship. Finally, each element that raises the likelihood of pedophilia raises the risk of pedophilic disorder as well. 

Diagnosis of Pedophilic Disorder:

To be diagnosed with pedophilic disorder, the following criteria must be met according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

  • For a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally age 13 or younger). These urges have bee acted on or have caused significant distress or impairment in occupational, social, or other important areas of life.
  • The individual is at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the victim child. This does not, however, include a late adolescent who is engaging in a continuing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.
  • A pedophilic disorder diagnosis should also describe whether the person is solely attracted to youngsters or not, the gender to whom the person is drawn, and whether the sexual impulses are confined to pedophilia.

Treatment of Pedophilic Disorder:


Individuals with pedophilic disorder have been effectively treated using cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) methods. Therapy is even more effective if the individual is willing to attend individual and group treatment. Responsibility taking, victim empathy, aversive training, learning about healthy versus unhealthy relationships, and developing a sound relapse prevention plan is key to success. Treatment should be conducted by a qualified therapist who is experienced in sex offender treatment. 


Medication may be used along with psychotherapy if necessary. These include: 

  • Antiandrogens, such as Lupron and Provera are used which can help to lower the hyperactive sex drive.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which treat associated compulsive sexual disorders and reduce the symptoms related to stress and anxiety.