This article reviews empirical research to discover what support exists for theories that attempt to explain why adults become sexually interested in and involved with immature children. These theories are first organized into four basic categories: emotional congruence-why the adult congruence - why an emotional need to relate to a child; sexual arousl-why the adult could become sexually aroused by a child; blockage - why alternative sources of sexual and emotional gratification are not available; or disinhibition - why the adult is not deterred from such an interest by normal prohibitions. The review shows that the best experimental research has been directed toward establishing that pedophiles do not show an unusual pattern of sexual arousal toward children, although no good evidence yet exists about why this is so; a number of studies have concurred that pedophiles are blocked in their social and heterosexual relationships; the use of alcohol is well established as a disinhibiting factor that plays a role in a great many pedophile offenses; at least one study gives support to the 'emotional congruence' idea that children, because of their lack of dominance, have some special meaning for pedophiles; and there is evidence that many pedophiles were themselves victims of pedophile behavior when they were children. The article also demonstrates that pedophilia research is, in general, characterized by some serious theoretical and methodological flaws. As a result, caution should be exercised in generalizing findings until more careful research is undertaken.



Publication Date


Journal Title

Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law


American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law

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Included in

Sociology Commons