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Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV Revised, 2000
  • Over a period of at least six months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
  • The person has acted on these sexual urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies caused marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
  • The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

Note: Do not include an individual in late adolescence involved in an ongoing sexual relationship with a 12- or 13-year-old.

Specify if:
  • Sexually Attracted to Males
  • Sexually Attracted to Females
  • Sexually Attracted to Both
Specify if:
  • Limited to Incest
Specify type:
  • Exclusive Type (attracted only to children)
  • Nonexclusive Type

Pedophilia (or paedophilia; Greek: παιδοφιλια, "love of boys"), in its modern definition, is a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. In ancient Greek homoerotic poetry, the noun paiderastēs (pederast, "boylover") and the verb paiderastein ("to love boys") were respectively replaced by paidophilēs and paidophilein (synonyms from which the term "pedophilia" is derived), in order to fit the elegiac metre favored for the genre.[1] While the exact meaning of the word varies by context, it usually refers to the medical definition given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA); those who meet its diagnostic criteria are classed as pedophiles. The term for a sexual attraction to adolescents is "ephebophilia".

Common informal usage of the word "pedophilia" does not follow the strict medical definitions of an adult or teenager who is attracted to prepubescent children, but often refers to any adult who is attracted to, or has sexual contact with, any person under the age of consent, or the age of majority (16–18 years old in most Western countries).

In many contemporary societies and cultures, the term "pedophile" is highly stigmatized. This spurs many pedophiles to adopt names such as boylover, minor-attracted adult, girllover, and childlover, among others, to assist in differentiating themselves and their values from the prevaling negative stereotypes.

Pedophilia's essence does not reside in exploitation, assault or harm to others, and some pedophiles look also for the child’s friendship and love.[2][3][4][5]


Sexual interest is difficult to measure because fantasies, sensations of attraction, and urges, are covert, and people may deny deviant sexual interests.


Two important changes occurred in 1980 with the publication of DSM-III. Pedophilia and the other paraphilias were switched to the general chapter on Psychosexual Disorders, replacing their previous categorizations "Sociopathic Personality Disturbances" or "Personality Disorders". Furthermore, the term sexual deviation was replaced by paraphilia (supposedly less pejorative) and each of the categories was defined in more specific terms, with the significant difference that homosexuality was included only in its ego-dystonic manifestation.

The DSM-IV omitted the the first part of Criterion B. This criterion now required, for all paraphilias, only that "the fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning". Failing distress or impairment, unusual sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviors were considered nonpathological. Either they were normal—"a stimulus for sexual excitement in individuals without a paraphilia"—or they should be understood as ordinary criminality. Conservative religious groups worried that the change meant DSM-IV did not recognize pedophilia as a mental disorder unless it caused distress. Therefore, DSM-IV-TR reverted to the DSM-III-R's diagnostic criteria for paraphilia.

Proposed changes in DSM criteria

It was proposed that criterion B be changed so that seeking sexual stimulation by three or more pubescent or younger children, or two if both are prepubescent, be required for a pedophilic disorder diagnosis. One critique of this was that it would be better to make the unit of analysis be incidences rather than victims. Another criticism was that there was no justification put forth for equating three pubescent children with two prepubescent children.

It was also proposed that paraphilias be ascertained according to the A criteria and diagnosed according to the B criteria. A critique of this was that it would put people who had been ascertained but not diagnosed with a paraphilia in a gray area with uncertain implications for custody and sentencing.

It was also proposed that Criterion A be modified to require that the deviant arousal be greater or equal than the arousal from mature individuals. A criticism of this was that the current state of measurement technology does not allow for this quantification to be practically or validly assessed.[6]

See also

An interview with Lindsay Ashford describes the feelings of isolation in society of pedophiles


  1. K. J. Dover, Greek Homosexuality; Harvard University Press, 1989; p. 50.
  2. Lautmann, R. (1994). Attraction to children. Hamburg: Ingrid Klein.
  3. Li, C. K. (1990).‘‘The main thing is being wanted’’: Some case studies on adult sexual experiences with children. Journal of Homosexuality, 20, 129–143.
  4. Schmidt, G. (2002). The dilemma of the male pedophile. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31, 473–477.
  5. Seto, M. (2012). Is pedophilia a sexual orientation? Archives of Sexual Behavior, doi:10.1007/s10508-011-9882-6.
  6. A critique of the proposed DSM-V diagnosis of pedophilia. O'Donohue, William; National Library of Medicine. Archives of sexual behavior 39.3: 587-590. (June 2010)

External links