Paedophilia is the sexual attraction of adults to prepubescent children.
Research into paedophilia is hindered by the fact that most paedophiles, for reasons it is unnecessary for me to elucidate, do not declare themselves openly and volunteer to be subjects of research studies. Because of this, research tends to be restricted to those who have been identified because they have been convicted of a related crime. As such, the paedophiles who have been studied are a non-representative sample of all paedophiles. Paedophiles who have acted on their impulses and have not yet been arrested or convicted, and law-abiding paedophiles who suppress their illegal impulses, have generally not been studied.
It follows from this, of course, that nobody knows what percentage of the population have experienced paedosexual impulses.
Paedophilia And Brain Damage:
Above: Diagram showing location of the amygdala and hypothalamus, damage to which is believed to be linked to paedophilia.
Whilst the limited research that has been conducted suggests that most paedophiles have been paedophiles all their lives, some people, research has also demonstrated, suddenly become paedophiles. When this occurs it is due to brain damage, caused, for example, by a brain tumour. Tumours in the following brain areas are thought, in some patients, to have caused them to become paedophiles:
– prefrontal cortex
– temporal cortex
Research also shows that some illnesses that affect the brain can sometimes lead to the development of paedophilia, such as:
– Parkinson’s disease
However, in the case of most paedophiles, their sexuality seems to be in explained by early developmental abnormalities in the young brain, caused by genetic and other factors. These developmental abnormalities appear to lead to structural differences in the brains of paedophiles; specifically, they have less grey matter in certain brain regions, including the amygdala and the hypothalamus (see diagram above).
Can Child Abuse Lead To Adult Paedophilia?
Research suggests that those who become adult paedophiles are more likely than non-paedophiles to have been sexually abused as young children, suggesting that environmental, as well as genetic (a first degree relative of a paedophile has about a 1 in 5 chance of also being a paedophile), play a role in the development of paedophilia.
However, it is important to stress again the limitations of the research that has led to the above findings.
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).