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Can Child Abuse Lead to the Later Adult Development of Paedophilia?

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Introduction : some research into the phenomenon of paedophilia :

In the UK, the popular media seems to be obsessed and hysterical in relation to the subject of paedophilia. But what does the research tell us? For example, can, as is commonly assumed by the general public, child abuse make it more likely that the individual who suffered it later develops paedophilic tendencies as an adult?

The term ‘paedophile’ is often incorrectly used, but, in fact, refers to an individual who is predominantly attracted to prepubescent children. A person who is predominantly attracted to adolescents, on the other hand, is referred to as an ‘ephebophile’. By no means are all paedophiles abusers of children, and, furthermore, most abusers of children are not paedophiles. Indeed, child abuse is by far most common within the family/extended family ; so-called ‘stranger-danger’ is relatively rare.

Whilst it is difficult to measure, it is thought that only about 20% of ‘true’ paedophiles have sexual contact with children.

Some statistics :

For obvious reasons, it is very hard to be certain about the true incidence within the current population of paedophilia. Estimates, however, of the number of paedophiles in the UK range from 1-2% up to 20%. (It is also thought that only about 5% of all paedophiles in the UK are female.)

Are those abused as children more likely to become paedophiles in adulthood?

First, it should be pointed out that the cause/causes of paedophilia , at the present time, are by no means precisely known. However, theories include :

– it is a ‘learned behaviour’, and, therefore, those who have been sexually abused or victimized as children are more likely to develop paedophilic tendencies in adulthood. Those who believe in this theory also often believe that because paedophilic behaviour is learned, it follows that it can also be ‘unlearned’ (ie that treatment can ‘cure’it)

– another theory is that there might be a partly genetic cause

– a third theory is that paedophilia relates to problems the paedophile has in connection with issues of power, control, isolation and emotional loneliness

It is worth repeating, however, that the above are just theories. Research from Canada ,at present ,suggests that paedophilia is a sexual orientation in the same way as heterosexuality and homosexuality are sexual orientations, and is therefore permanent and not subject to being changed by treatment or therapy. Despite this, however, the DSM (diagnostic statistical manual) still classifies it as a mental disorder. This is at least in part due to findings such as the following :

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a) paedophiles tend to have less white brain matter than non-paedophiles ; this means, essentially, that their brains are ‘wired up’ differently

b) in statistical terms, paedophiles, on average, have  IQs which are 10 points lower than non-paedophiles’ IQs.

 

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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