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There is an emerging consensus among researchers that having pedophilic interests is not synonymous with child sexual abuse or other amoral behavior. Nevertheless, misconceptions about pedophilia are highly prevalent among the general public and mental health practitioners. This article provides an overview of recent findings on the stigma of pedophilia and derives guidelines for mental health practitioners based on these results. We argue that stigmatization of people with pedophilic sexual interests has undesired indirect effects on risk factors for child sexual abuse, particularly on an emotional and social level. Also, fear of being rejected or treated unethically may prevent pedophilic individuals at risk for sexual offending from confiding in medical practitioners or psychotherapists. Psychologists working with pedophilic individuals in forensic or clinical settings should be aware that stigmatizing people with pedophilia may increase their risk of sexual offending, and provide help to deal with potential stigma-related repercussions.
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The Stigma of Pedophilia: Clinical and Forensic Implications
Sara Jahnke
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Germany
Address for correspondence:
Sara Jahnke
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena, Department of Research Synthesis, Intervention and
Evaluation, Humboldtstraße 26, 07743 Jena, Germany
Author note
The author declares that she has no conflict of interest. This research did not receive any
specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
There is an emerging consensus among researchers that having pedophilic interests is
not synonymous with child sexual abuse or other amoral behavior. Nevertheless,
misconceptions about pedophilia are highly prevalent among the general public and mental
health practitioners. This article provides an overview of recent findings on the stigma of
pedophilia and derives guidelines for mental health practitioners based on these results. We
argue that stigmatization of people with pedophilic sexual interests has undesired indirect
effects on risk factors for child sexual abuse, particularly on an emotional and social level.
Also, fear of being rejected or treated unethically may prevent pedophilic individuals at risk
for sexual offending from confiding in medical practitioners or psychotherapists.
Psychologists working with pedophilic individuals in forensic or clinical settings should be
aware that stigmatizing people with pedophilia may increase their risk of sexual offending,
and provide help to deal with potential stigma-related repercussions.
Key words: stigma, pedophilia, sexual offending, attitudes, discrimination
Pedophilia, that is, a sexual attraction to prepubescent children, has drawn a lot of
scientific attention in recent years (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Consequently,
our understanding of this particular sexual makeup has evolved rapidly. First, the idea that
pedophilia may be best understood as a sexual orientation, which, akin to homo- or
heterosexuality, starts early and remains stable over the course of life, is now gaining
acceptance amongst the scientific community (Berlin, 2014; Grundmann, Krupp, Scherner,
Amelung, & Beier, 2016; Seto, 2012). Second, most experts agree that although pedophilic
interests cannot be changed at will, their behavioral expression can be controlled in order to
comply with the standards of a society that does not permit sexual acts between adults and
children (Beier, 2016; Berlin, 2015). Third, there is a growing awareness in the field that
individuals with pedophilic interests are more heterogenous than past research, due to its
disproportionate focused on offender samples with high rates of psychopathology, was able to
account for (Cantor & McPhail, 2016; Seto, 2007). If these statements are true, which current
evidence strongly implies, we should expect research interests to move away from
“preventing access to children and providing close supervision” (Harvard Mental Health
Letter, 2010) to address more humanitarian issues centering on how pedophilic individuals
can manage to live productive, happy, and law-abiding lives, while dealing with the stigma of
their sexual identity (Cantor, 2014). To support these efforts, forensic and clinical experts
should be aware of the stigma against pedophilic individuals and how it interferes with child
abuse prevention. The purpose of this article is to summarize the current literature on the
stigma of pedophilia, and to provide guidelines for psychologists who work with pedophilic
individuals in clinical and forensic settings.
Note that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (now in its fifth
edition, American Psychiatric Association, 2013) now uses the term pedophilia to describe a
sexual interest in children that is not considered pathological in and of itself. A pedophilic
disorder can only be diagnosed when the person who has pedophilic fantasies also commits
corresponding sexual offenses involving children or sexual child abuse materials, or
experiences distress because of these urges. In line with these important terminological
changes, the term pedophilia is henceforward used only to refer to a type of sexual interest in
prepubescent children and does not imply a clinical diagnosis or sexual misconduct.
A Brief Introduction to the Stigma Literature
The term stigma is used to refer to attributes or “marks” that are deeply discrediting,
eliciting avoidance of or aggression towards the carrier of the attribute who is perceived as
bad, dangerous, or weak (Goffman, 1963, note the term stigma originates from the Greek
expression for “mark”). Stigmatization is “the condition of being denied full social
acceptance” because of the discrediting attribute (Goffman, 1967, p. 7 translation by author).
Believing in negative assumptions (also referred to as prejudices) about a person carrying a
stigma elicits negative emotions, which may in turn motivate discrimination (Rüsch,
Angermeyer, & Corrigan, 2005). Therefore, stigmatization has measurable effects on people’s
life chances by, for instance, limiting access to appropriate housing, health-care, or work
opportunities (Hatzenbuehler, Phelan, & Link, 2013; Page, 1977; Thornicroft, 2008).
Yet, having a stigma is considered highly stressful even if the stigma carrier manages
to avoid discrimination by hiding the stigmatized attribute (which is most likely the case for
the majority of people with pedophilic interests in the community, Jahnke, Schmidt, Geradt,
& Hoyer, 2015). Beyond the experience of social isolation and discrimination, stress-inducing
processes among sexual minority (LGB, i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, currently often referred to
as LGBTQ to include people with transsexual and queer identities) groups include efforts to
conceal stigmatized attributes and fearful expectations of being discovered, as well as the
internalization of negative stereotypes (Meyer, 2003). It is through stigma-related stress that
stigmatization is believed to exert a negative effect on the well-being and mental health of a
person possessing a stigma (Hatzenbuehler et al., 2013). As pedophilic individuals are also
stigmatized due to their sexual makeup, we would expect their reactions to be similar to those
of LGBTQ people.
Stigma against People with Pedophilia among the General Public
To the extent that stigma against people with pedophilia is gaining recognition as
being detrimental for child abuse prevention, researchers are beginning to study its prevalence
and characteristics (Harper, Bartels, & Hogue, 2016). Stigmatization of people with
pedophilic interests has been documented for different samples in Germany, the United
Kingdom, the United States, and Russia (see Table 1).
Common stereotypes about pedophilic individuals include that they are dangerous,
abnormal, amoral, and in control of being sexually attracted to children (Feldman & Crandall,
2007; Imhoff, 2015; Imhoff & Jahnke, 2018; Jahnke, 2018; Jahnke, Imhoff, & Hoyer, 2015).
All of the aforementioned studies found a strong link between the stereotype of dangerousness
and desires to punish or to avoid the person with pedophilia. In one experiment, a man with
pedophilic interests was considered to be dangerous, even when participants were informed
that this man has never, and will never, commit sexual offenses due to a corresponding moral
conviction that such acts are wrong (Jahnke, 2018). Thus, compared to the low rates of
previous incarcerations among community samples of pedophilic men (Bailey, Bernhard, &
Hsu, 2016; Dombert et al., 2016; Jahnke, Schmidt, et al., 2015), the public strongly
overestimates the relationship between pedophilia and sexual offending, and does not believe
that any person with a sexual interest would be willing or able to manage these impulses in a
responsible way.
Although emotions are likely to play a major role in sexual attitudes and morality
(Giner-Sorolla, Bosson, Caswell, & Hettinger, 2012), relatively few authors have focused on
emotional aspects of the stigma attached to pedophilic interests. Across several studies, the
majority of participants reported strong negative emotions towards people with pedophilia,
particularly anger and disgust (Jahnke, 2018; Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015).
On the level of behavioral intentions, evidence consistently shows that social distance
towards people with pedophilia, that is, the tendency to reject them on different levels of
social interaction, is remarkable. For instance, comparative surveys revealed that
nonoffending pedophilic individuals are rejected more fiercely than people who abuse
alcohol, sexual sadists, or people with antisocial tendencies (Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015;
Koops, Turner, Jahnke, Märker, & Briken, 2016). Among the German and US-American
respondents in Jahnke, Imhoff, et al. (2015), only between five and seven percent were
willing to befriend someone with pedophilic interests, even though it was stated explicitly that
this person has never offended. In another study, a pedophilic disorder was the least accepted
in a list of 40 mental disorders (with the exception of antisocial personality disorder, Feldman
& Crandall, 2007).
Further research documented strong punitive attitudes in relation to people with a
sexual interest in children (Harper et al., 2016; Imhoff, 2015; Imhoff & Jahnke, 2018). Imhoff
(2015) found that calls for punishment (including, e.g., incarceration, castration, and death)
were particularly strong when the “pedophilia” label was present, as opposed to using the
more descriptive term “sexual interest in (prepubescent) children” (see also Imhoff & Jahnke,
As negative attitudes are widespread even among educated, young, and liberal-minded
people (Imhoff & Jahnke, 2018; Jahnke, 2018; Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015), pedophilic
individuals can expect little tolerance once their sexual identity is revealed. The tendency in
popular media to conflate the terms “pedophilia” and “sexual crime” (Harper & Hogue, 2015;
Kitzinger, 2002) is likely to contribute to this common misperception, which, in turn,
increases stigmatization even towards nonoffending people with pedophilia.
Stigma against People with Pedophilia in the Mental Health Professions
Due to the confidential nature of the therapeutic setting, some people with pedophilia
choose to disclose to a mental health care practitioner (Wagner, Jahnke, Beier, Hoyer, &
Scherner, 2016). In a recent prevalence survey, only 12.3% of all men with sexual interest in
children reported having considered seeking professional help, but the rate jumped to 50%
among those whose sexual attraction to children surpassed their attraction to adults (Dombert
et al., 2016). Reactions towards pedophilic individuals among mental health experts were
more favorable compared to the previously discussed samples (Jahnke, Philipp, & Hoyer,
2015), but note that a small sample of Russian sexologists held extremely negative views
(with, e.g., 29% agreeing that pedophilic individuals should be preemptively incarcerated,
even if they have lived law-abiding lives, Koops et al., 2016). In one study, psychotherapists
in training also showed awareness that pedophilic interests probably cannot be changed at will
and that it does not necessarily lead to sexual offending (Jahnke, Philipp, et al., 2015). Two
studies have looked at therapists’ motivation to offer therapy. While only 4.7% of
psychotherapists in Stiels-Glenn (2010) were willing to provide therapeutic help, the majority
(80%) of respondents in Jahnke, Philipp, et al. (2015) indicated that they would not reject
pedophilic individuals as patients, unless these people have committed sexual offenses.
Wagner, Jahnke, Beier, Hoyer, and Scherner (2016) collected indirect evidence for
professional stigma by analyzing patients’ interview reports from the German Prevention
Project Dunkelfeld (PPD) that provides anonymous treatment for pedophilic individuals who
are at risk to commit offenses. Their results suggest that patients’ previous experiences with
psychotherapists were mostly negative due to inappropriate treatment methods and
stigmatization. The strong motivation and willingness of PPD patients to travel long distances
indicate that they were unable to find trustworthy and accepting therapists in their home
towns (Beier et al., 2015). The majority of participants in an online sample of pedophilic men
from the community reported pessimism regarding a mental health practitioner’s ability to
understand their problems, and only about half indicated general willingness to reveal their
sexual orientation to a therapist (Jahnke, Schmidt, et al., 2015). Thus, there is reason to
believe that many pedophilic men experience trouble finding a suitable psychotherapist due to
the stigmatized nature of their sexual interests.
Stigma-related Stress and Offending Risk
Several authors have expressed concerns that stigma may have deleterious effects on
dynamic risk factors for sexual offending (e.g., Jahnke & Hoyer, 2013; Lasher & Stinson,
2016). Dynamic risk factors for sexual offending include variables relating to intimacy or
social problems, legitimizing beliefs about adult-child sex, and self-regulation problems (e.g.,
coping deficits, Beier, 2016; Mann, Hanson, & Thornton, 2010). Self-esteem problems and
depression, despite having been dismissed as risk factors for sexual offenders (Mann et al.,
2010), continue to be at the center of a number of etiological models and treatment protocols
(Beier, 2016; Marshall, Anderson, & Champagne, 1997). Yet, nonassociation of these factors
and sexual offending might be due to methodological limitations, as risk factor studies are
typically conducted among samples of detected offenders who have committed various sexual
crimes like child abuse and rape, and who do not necessarily experience a sexual attraction to
prepubescent children.
Jahnke, Schmidt, et al. (2015) argue that stigmatization may indirectly increase the
risk of sexual offending through deficits in social and emotional functioning (including
deficits in coping with stress), a stronger belief that adult-child sex is morally permissible, and
reduced willingness to seek professional help in case of need (see Figure 1). To date, theirs is
the only quantitative analysis to have comprehensively addressed stigma-related stress among
pedophilic individuals. In their study, German-speaking pedophilic men from online
communities overestimated the public’s desire for social distance, with less than eight percent
agreeing that others would talk to people with pedophilia, let alone befriend them or accept
them as neighbors. Also, the great majority of participants in the same sample believed that
the public would prefer that nonoffending men with pedophilia were dead (63%) or in prison
(84%), even though this opinion was not found to be shared by a majority of people in any of
the surveys on public stigma against this group (Jahnke, 2018; Jahnke, Imhoff, et al., 2015;
Jahnke, Philipp, et al., 2015; Koops et al., 2016). In general, participants reported strong fears
of others finding out about their sexual interests and attempts to keep their pedophilic interests
a secret. This fear of being discovered was significantly associated with more psychological
and physical problems, fear of negative evaluation, loneliness, and emotional coping (as a
dysfunctional coping style often found among sexual offenders against children, Whitaker et
al., 2008) as well as less self-esteem. Jahnke, Schmidt, et al. (2015) could not corroborate
links between stigma-related stress and participants’ motivation to seek therapy or their level
of agreement with legitimizing beliefs regarding adult-child sex.
[insert Figure 1 here]
Other studies provide indirect, anecdotal, or qualitative evidence for the supposed
effects of stigma on psychological functioning among pedophilic individuals. Several articles
on forensic samples of pedophilic men indicated disproportionally high rates of mental
disorders (e.g., lifetime prevalences of 30-67% for mood disorders, 39-60% for substance
disorders, and 38-53% for social phobia, Adiele, Davidson, Harlow, & del Busto, 2011; Leue,
Borchard, & Hoyer, 2004; Raymond, Coleman, Ohlerking, Christenson, & Miner, 1999).
Surveys on the mental health of people from the LGBTQ community consistently
include measures of experienced discrimination or self-stigma (e.g., internalized
homonegativity, Newcomb & Mustanski, 2010) to test whether negative societal attitudes
might have contributed to increased rates of mental disorders (but note that cross-sectional
data cannot address causal mechanisms). Regrettably, assessing this potential alternative
explanation for the existing link between pedophilia and mental disorders is far less common.
This is unfortunate, as the few qualitative studies interviewing pedophilic men from the
community revealed that such people are challenged to create positive identities due to the
lack of role models, social support, and/or fears regarding potential negative consequences
once others find out about their (usually hidden) sexuality (Freimond, 2013; Goode, 2009;
Houtepen, Sijtsema, & Bogaerts, 2015). In search of support and validation that they are
unlikely to find in a society that rejects even nonoffending people with pedophilic interests,
many are likely to look for others sharing their sexual attraction to children on the Internet.
Webforums for pedophilic individuals, however, may play a role in introducing or reinforcing
moral beliefs or norms that justify sexual acts with children (Holt, Blevins, & Burkert, 2010;
Jahnke, Schmitt, & Malón, 2017), which may in turn lower inhibitions to engage in sexual
behavior with a child.
Anti-Stigma Interventions
Two research groups in Germany and the United Kingdom have examined whether
negative attitudes and misperceptions about pedophilia can be changed through anti-stigma
campaigns. Jahnke, Philipp, et al. (2015) tested a short intervention combining educative
material with a video clip portraying a man who has undergone therapy to learn how to
control his pedophilic desires. Compared to a control condition, the anti-stigma intervention
successfully reduced stigmatizing attitudes, but did not increase willingness to offer therapy to
such clients among prospective psychotherapists. Harper et al. (2016) contrasted the effects of
two anti-stigma interventions, presenting information about pedophilia either from a narrative
(i.e., a self-identified man with pedophilia talking about his sexuality) or an informative
perspective (i.e., an expert interview on pedophilia). While both conditions led to a reduction
of dehumanizing stereotypes perceived dangerousness, and punitive attitudes among the
student participants, these effects were stronger when participants learned about pedophilia
from somebody with pedophilic interests. Additionally, the latter condition was the only one
that reduced a negative implicit bias. These findings raise hopes that “it may be possible to
help community members see beyond the ‘pedophile’ label, and instead to consider these
people as individuals struggling with sexual interests that they do not want, and do not choose
to have” (Harper et al., 2016, p. 19).
Clinical and Forensic Implications
The findings reported in this review have a number of important implications for
clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, or other mental health professionals. These
implications will be presented in the following section in the form of general guidelines and
recommendations. While the guidelines are intended to be informative for mental health
experts with different levels of experience regarding the treatment of patients with pedophilia,
they are especially relevant for practitioners who (as of now) refuse to work with such clients
because of stigma or professional uncertainty. For further study, note that the Maryland-based
patient-advocacy group B4U-ACT (2017) has also published guidelines for the treatment of
minor-attracted persons on their website.
1. Practitioners Should Understand that Pedophilia and Sexual Offending Against
Children are not the Same
Desiring sexual acts with children is different from engaging in such acts. Among the
565 child-attracted men recruited in a recent online survey, 39% reported to have never
offended (Cohen, Ndukwe, Yaseen, & Galynker, 2017), while about 50% of convicted sexual
offenders against children do not show a dominant sexual attraction to children (as measured
by penile plethysmography, Seto, 2007). In Dombert et al.'s (2016) community survey, 56%
of men with pedophilic sexual interests had never committed child sexual abuse or used child
sexual exploitation materials, whereas 44% of all reported sexual offenses were committed by
men without pedophilic fantasies.
People with pedophilia are likely to experience their sexual and emotional attraction to
children in much the same way as nonpedophilic individuals experience their attraction to
physically mature sexual partners, and, like anybody else, can make a choice to lead an
offense-free life. Stigma research shows that many people have trouble differentiating
between pedophilia and sexual offending. Forensic practitioners may find it particularly
challenging to separate the two concepts, given that all pedophilic individuals in their care are
convicted offenders. This could lead to overly pessimistic attitudes regarding the effectiveness
of therapy due to the false belief that pedophilia always leads to sexual offenses. While it
could be dangerous to underestimate the reoffending risk among paraphilic offenders,
underestimating their ability or motivation to live offense-free might also undermine
treatment success. We recommend that practitioners keep in mind that it is possible to accept
a person with pedophilic interests without condoning sexual acts that are illegal or immoral by
the standards of our society.
2. Practitioners Should Learn to Address Issues Associated With Stigmatized Sexual
People with pedophilia who seek mental health care need a therapist who is well-
informed about pedophilia and able to provide nonjudgmental assistance. Despite prevalence
rates (3-4% among the male population, Baur et al., 2016; Dombert et al., 2016) that match
those of nonheterosexual orientations or atypical sexual interests, specific training
opportunities, literature, or courses that prepare practitioners to work with pedophilic
individuals as a highly stigmatized group are extremely rare.
However, there is a large and growing body of research on the treatment of clients
who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (Murphy, Rawlings, & Howe, 2002; Nichols &
Shernoff, 2007), as well as numerous LGBTQ-related training opportunities directed at
mental health staff, such as workshops, graduate or postgraduate courses, or supervision with
therapists who are experienced regarding the treatment of LGBTQ clients. There is also a
small but relevant literature addressing issues regarding the treatment of people with other
atypical sexual interests like BDSM (Bezreh, Weinberg, & Edgar, 2012; Hoff & Sprott, 2009;
Kolmes, Stock, & Moser, 2006), which could be informative for therapists working with
pedophilic individuals. This is not to suggest that pedophilia and other sexual orientations or
interests should be equated, but there are a number of common issues (e.g., deciding whether
or not to reveal one’s sexual identity to others, experiencing estrangement and increased stress
as a result of hiding one’s sexual identity, dealing with identity problems or shame, or
forming social networks as a source of acceptance and social support) that therapists should
be able to address when working with clients from either of these groups. Therefore, mental
health professionals who seek to improve their practice might find it helpful to familiarize
themselves with the literature on working with clients from the LGBTQ or BDSM community
or seek other types of education (e.g., training, supervision) to gain these specific
3. Practitioners Should be Aware that Stigma-related Stress may Exacerbate Mental
Health Problems and Increase Offending Risk among People with Pedophilia
Even though it is common and tempting to believe otherwise, ostracizing people with
pedophilia is unlikely to help keep children safe (Jahnke & Hoyer, 2013; Lasher & Stinson,
2016). On the contrary, social stigma may have a detrimental effect on risk factors for sexual
offending, such as poor mental health, emotion-focused coping, and social isolation. Even
pedophilic individuals who present very little danger due to good behavioral control and a
strong motivation not to offend are likely to face considerable problems if others find out
about their sexual interests. These potential consequences might involve, for instance, losing
partners, friends, or work opportunities or receiving threats (Wagner et al., 2016). A loss of
socioeconomic status is robustly associated with negative health outcomes, as “people with
greater resources of knowledge, money, power, prestige, and social connections are generally
better able to avoid risks and to adopt protective strategies” (Link & Phelan, 2006, p. 529).
For LGBTQ groups, it is well-established that an “excess in social stressors related to stigma
and prejudice” (Meyer, 2003, p. 609) is likely to contribute to higher prevalence of mental
disorders. Since the stigma attached to pedophilia can be expected to be much stronger than
the stigma surrounding LGBTQ orientations, related experiences of stress are likely to
contribute to even higher rates of psychopathology among pedophilic individuals. Therefore,
clinical and forensic practitioners should address stigma and help their pedophilic clients deal
with its potential repercussions. Also, when social acceptance seems unattainable due to
stigma, people with pedophilic interests might embrace subcultural values legitimizing adult-
child sex as a coping mechanism (Freimond, 2013; Jahnke, Schmidt, et al., 2015). Hence,
treatment that focuses on improving stigma-management (e.g., by increasing self-acceptance
and finding means to satisfy emotional and social needs) may further reduce the risk of sexual
offending among this group.
4. Practitioners Should Acknowledge that Stigmatizing People with Pedophilia can
Create Barriers for Psychotherapy
Achieving an offense-free life is usually the primary treatment goal for people with
pedophilic interests. As there is no method to selectively reduce sexual attraction to children,
current treatment protocols focus on diminishing dynamic risk factors for child sexual abuse
(Beier, 2016). Yet, treatment opportunities for pedophilic individuals are sparse, and seeking
treatment may have deleterious familial, social, or legal consequences for people with
pedophilia, especially in countries with mandatory reporting laws (Cantor, 2014; Lasher &
Stinson, 2016). By creating circumstances where those with pedophilia have limited access to
psychotherapy and are discouraged from seeking it, structural stigma may undermine efforts
to prevent sexual offending. Stigma research has furthermore revealed stigmatizing attitudes
on the part of clinical practitioners, which may dissuade pedophilic individuals from
disclosing their sexual interests or from pursuing therapy. Pedophilic individuals appear to
have little trust that mental health professionals would treat them respectfully, even in
countries like Germany, where laws assure patient confidentiality even when a patient
discloses past sexual offenses, and that do not oblige psychotherapists to report planned
sexual offenses (but note that psychotherapists are allowed to break confidentiality in the
latter case).
5. Practitioners Should Gain Awareness of their own Stigmatizing Attitudes
Since psychologists are part of the culture that rejects and demonizes people with
pedophilic sexual interests, they should identify their own assumptions and feelings regarding
this issue. As discussed above, anti-stigma interventions may help to reduce stigma among
psychotherapists and to sensitize them for this issue, especially if they involve at least video-
based contact with a person with pedophilia (Harper et al., 2016; see also Jahnke, Philipp, et
al., 2015 for an intervention targeting psychotherapists). Biased or overly negative
assumptions may exist at an explicit or implicit level and, if present, are likely to interfere
with therapy success. This involves awareness that clients with pedophilia (in a nonforensic
setting) may pursue psychotherapy for a variety of reasons. While some experience problems
controlling sexual urges and/or finding alternative ways to achieve sexual satisfaction, others
struggle to develop a positive identity or to find ways to disclose their sexual interests to close
friends or family members. An inflexible and excessive focus on techniques of behavioral
control of sexual urges towards children might signal stigmatizing attitudes when the patient
in question neither needs nor seeks assistance to live offense-free. Similarly, not believing in a
client’s statement that he or she has never offended against children due to stereotypical
beliefs about the nature of pedophilia might threaten the therapeutic alliance.
When stigma exists at a more implicit level, practitioners may also experience
difficulties to assess pedophilia and related problems. This could potentially lead to an
avoidance of issues related to the client’s sexual interests, and potential sexual acts involving
children or sexual child abuse materials. If practitioners find that their personal attitudes
towards pedophilia are negative and threatening to impede a therapeutic alliance, they should
make referrals to other therapists in a respectful and professional way, educate themselves
about pedophilia, and/or seek supervision.
6. Practitioners Should Strive to Reduce the Stigma of Pedophilia
Psychologists should strive to destigmatize pedophilia and to treat patients with these
sexual interests as respectful and empathetically as they would treat other clients. Mental
health professionals and scientists also carry a responsibility when they communicate about
pedophilia outside of therapeutic settings. This includes a stronger commitment to separating
sexual interests and criminal behavior when speaking or writing about pedophilia. For
instance, findings based on incarcerated offender samples should not be over-generalized to
all people with pedophilic interests (Cantor & McPhail, 2016; Feelgood & Hoyer, 2008; Seto,
2007). In this regard, explicitly referring to pedophilia as a sexual orientation and separating it
from sexual offending in the new DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)
constitutes a laudable decision, that should not be retracted in response to the pressure of a
misinformed public (see also Berlin, 2014).
Misconceptions about pedophilia and reservations regarding people with this sexual
orientation are highly prevalent and may impair efforts to prevent sexual offenses. Although
stigmatization of people with pedophilia has ceased to be the “blind spot” of stigma research
(Jahnke & Hoyer, 2013), especially regarding the prevalence of prejudice, social distance, and
punitive attitudes, there is a dearth of studies examining links between stigma-related stress
and risk factors for sexual offending. Future research should deepen our knowledge on how
stigma affects the lives of those with pedophilia, and identify strategies to alleviate its adverse
consequences on mental health and sexual offending risk. Pedophilic individuals should not
be deprived of social contact and life chances based on their sexual interests, but instead
deserve to be judged by their choices and acts. Psychologists and mental health professionals
are in a unique position to help clients with pedophilia deal with stigma and live meaningful
and offense-free lives, and to advocate for a more humane treatment of these people at a
societal level.
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Figure 1 Framework for the Effects of Stigma-Related Stress on Risk Factors for Sexual
Offending Against Children
Note. Solid arrows: empirically established links, dashed arrows: hypothesized links that could not be
empirically corroborated (see Jahnke, Schmidt, Geradt, & Hoyer, 2015)
1 note that links between these variables and risk factors for sexual offending against children have not
yet been empirically tested
Stigma-related Stress among People with Pedophilia
Risk Factors for Sexual Offending against Children
Social Level
withdrawal and
Lack of support
and control1
Joining pro-
offense circles1
Cognitive Level
Unrealistically low
related to control
of sexual urges
towards children
No correction of
self-serving beliefs
regarding sex with
Health Service Use
Refusal to seek
therapy, even
when needed and
Emotional Level
problems (e.g.,
low self-esteem,
fear of negative
evaluation, or
Mental disorders1
(e.g., mood
disorders, anxiety
substance abuse)
Table 1. Description of Studies Assessing the Stigma of Pedophilia
Sample Characteristics (nationality, age,
Group comparisons/ Independent
Stigma variables
British undergraduate students recruited
during an introductory psychology course
40 vignettes describing DSMIVTR
mental disorders (e.g., pedophilia
(pedophilic disorder in the DSM-5),
paranoid schizophrenia, depression,
Stereotype: dangerousness,
personal responsibility, unavoidability, “out of
touch with reality,” rarity, social disruptiveness,
“treatable with medication”
Discriminatory intention: social distance
German-speaking participants recruited
online via email lists, public website for
online studies, 28% male, Mage = 27.60 (SD
= 9.27, range: 17 - 72 years)
label “pedophilia” vs. “sexual
interest in children”
Stereotype: abnormality, dangerousness,
Emotion: fear, anger, pity
Discriminatory intention: social distance,
punitive attitudes
US-American MTurk workers, 62% male,
34% female (4% other or missing), Mage =
29.6 (SD = 8.6; range = 18 - 63),
label “pedophilia” vs. “sexual
interest in prepubescent children”
See Imhoff, 2015, Study 1
US-American MTurk workers, Mage =
32.51 (SD = 10.97; range = 18 - 75), 36%
female, 60% male (4% none of these two
1) label “pedophilia” vs. “sexual
interest in prepubescent children;” 2)
high intentionality vs. low
See Imhoff, 2015, Study 1
US-American MTurk workers, 58% male,
Mage = 33.0 (SD = 9.00; range: 20 - 60)
1) people with a sexual interest in
children vs. adults; 2) extrinsic (i.e.,
fears of punishment) vs. intrinsic
(i.e., moral conviction) nonoffending
Stereotype: intentionality, deviance,
Discriminatory intention: punitive attitudes
pedestrians recruited in the streets in two
German cities, Mage = 39.78 (SD = .03,
range = 18 86), 48% male
people with a dominant sexual
interest in children vs. people who
almost daily drink large amounts of
Stereotype: controllability, dangerousness for
children and adolescents, dangerousness for
Emotion: fear, pity, anger
Discriminatory intention: social distance
US-American MTurk workers, Mage =
33.38 (SD = 11.69, range: 18 - 68 years,
56.7% male
people with a dominant sexual
interest in children vs. people with a
dominant sexual interest in inflicting
See Jahnke, Imhoff, & Hoyer (2015), Study 1
physical pain on others (i.e., sexual
sadists) and people who continu-
ously disregard other people’s rights
(i.e., people with antisocial
psychotherapists in training from different
German CBT institutes, recruited via e-
mail lists, 82.5% female, Mage = 30.34 (SD
= 5.39, range: 24 - 53 years)
1) anti-stigma intervention, 2)
control intervention
Stereotype: controllability, dangerousness,
Emotion: sympathy, anger
Discriminatory intention: social distance,
therapy motivation
German-speaking men with a sexual
interest in children (self-identified) from
online communities, Mage = 37.30 (SD =
11.86, range: 1879 years)
Stigma-related stress: perceived social distance,
fear of discovery
Risk factors for sexual offending: physical and
psychological problems, loneliness, emotion-
focused coping, fear of negative
evaluation, self-esteem, self-efficacy,
legitimizing beliefs about adult-child sex,
motivation to seek treatment
Russian psychologists, physicians, and
educators receiving professional training in
sexology; 90% female, Mage = 42.6 years
(SD = 9.0, range: 25 58)
see Jahnke, Imhoff, & Hoyer (2015),
Study 1
See Jahnke, Imhoff, & Hoyer (2015), Study 1
British students (81% female; Mage = 22.53
years, SD = 6.48 years) recruited on
1) video presentation vs. written
transcripts, and 2) narrative (first-
person perspective) vs. informative
(third-person perspective)
Stereotype: dehumanizing attitudes (moral
disengagement), stereotypical perception of
sexual offenders
Discriminatory intention: perceptions about
sentencing and management policies, punitive
Implicit attitudes: mousetracking (word
categorization task)
psychotherapists practicing in Essen
(Germany), 35% male
child abusers vs. pedophiles vs.
rapists vs. violent offenders vs.
exhibitionists vs. fetishists vs. other
Discriminatory intention: motivation to offer
German-speaking patients of the
stigma-management: direct
Stigma-related stress: advantages (e.g., social
Prevention Project Dunkelfeld in Berlin,
analysis of data from initial clinical
disclosure vs. indirect disclosure vs.
acceptance, increased self-esteem) and
disadvantages (e.g., negative experiences with
psychotherapists, shame and guilt) associated
with each stigma-management strategy
... Yet, convincing empirical evidence for the effectiveness of preventing crime by treating individuals who feel distressed from their sexual interests in children and adolescents is still missing (Mokros & Banse, 2019). The principal idea of offering therapy for individuals suffering from psychological impairment, however, is hindered by the fact that psychological problems and disorders are negatively viewed by members of the public (Hinshaw & Stier, 2008) and-in the case of sexual interest in minors-even by mental health professionals themselves (Jahnke, 2018a). Research on the stigmatization of psychological problems has revealed that individuals who suffer from these conditions also suffer detrimental effects of stigmatization, including limited social participation (i.e., access to housing, job opportunities, or health care; Hatzenbuehler et al., 2013) as well as fostered internalization of negative stereotypes (Livingston & Boyd, 2010). ...
... This is particularly severe for persons with sexual interests in children and adolescents below the legal age of consent (in the following referred to as minor-attracted persons [MAPs]). It has been consistently shown that THERAPISTS' PERSPECTIVES ON MINOR-ATTRACTED PERSONS 5 sexual interest in children is a societally highly despised psychological condition (for recent overviews see: Jahnke, 2018a;Lawrence & Willis, 2021) that is associated with increased psychological distress and stigmatization stress in MAPs (e.g., Jahnke, Schmidt et al., 2015). ...
... Although roughly 60% of the respondents correctly acknowledged a link between sexual interest in minors and sexual victimization of children in community men (e.g., Klein et al., 2015), one fifth of the participants were convinced that non-offending MAPs' sexual interests will ultimately lead to child sexual abuse and that MAPs will eventually have sex with children (Table 3). These knowledge deficits (see Dombert et al., 2016 andCarpentier, 2021 for empirical concordance rates of sexual interest in children and child sexual abuse in community samples) corroborate the widespread conflation of sexual interest in minors and sexual victimization of children even among a subgroup of mental health professionals in less restrictive treatment contexts (Jahnke, 2018a;Lievesley et al., 2022). Although non-offending MAPs were largely regarded as individuals who had not intentionally chosen their sexual interests, non-negligible groups of therapists shared public beliefs (although at a statistically lower rate than the general public) that MAPs are dangerous, deviant (i.e., the majority believed MAPs are sick and in need of treatment), and need to be controlled by punitive administrative measures such as informing citizens about child sexual offenders becoming their neighbors (26%) or subjecting them to mandatory psychotherapy (40%). ...
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Minor-attracted persons (MAPs; i.e., people who are sexually interested in children and adolescents below the age threshold of legal consent for sexual activity) exhibit high psychological distress but report difficulties finding therapeutic help and are reluctant to start treatment due to fears of therapist stigmatization. This research sought to elucidate the link between outpatient therapists’ stigmatizing attitudes towards non-offending vs. offending MAPs and therapists’ willingness to treat MAPs as well as how stigmatization was related to treatment-relevant aspects such as perceived MAP treatment needs, treatment barriers, and specific MAP treatment skills. Results from a brief, anonymous online survey conducted among N = 427 Swiss outpatient therapists working in the primary healthcare system are reported. Although therapists were less stigmatizing than the general public, considerable individual differences in the stigmatization of non-offending MAPs emerged. Stigmatizing attitudes towards non-offending MAPs and a perceived lack of specific treatment competences were negatively related to therapists’ willingness to treat MAPs. A network analysis revealed direct links between subjectively perceived MAP treatment competence and treatment willingness and between treatment willingness and social distance attitudes. Other stigmatizing attitudes were only indirectly linked to treatment willingness through preferred social distance. It is a paradox that therapists believe that MAPs should greatly benefit from secondary prevention but many are unwilling to provide therapy (45% in case of non-offending MAPs vs. 63% in case of offending MAPs) or do not feel competent to provide MAPs with professional help (47% with and 88% of therapists without previous MAP treatment experience). Implications for increasing therapists’ treatment willingness are discussed.
... Auf gesellschaftlicher Ebene hat der Bedeutungsgewinn von Informations-und Kommunikationstechnologien einerseits zu einer weiteren Dynamisierung von dissexuellem Verhalten im Zusammenhang mit der Herstellung, Nutzung und Verbreitung von Abbildungen sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs geführt, andererseits auch neue Möglichkeiten der Patient:innenrekrutierung und -versorgung eröffnet (von Heyden & Beier, 2021). Unter Berücksichtigung der sich verdichtenden Evidenz hinsichtlich der Bedeutung von strukturellen und einstellungsbezogenen Zugangsbarrieren, insbesondere der ausgeprägten Fremd-und Selbststigmatisierung von Betroffenen (Jahnke, 2018;Levenson & Grady, 2019;Tomczyk et al., 2020), wurden die Strategien, Motive, Botschaften und Kanäle der Gesundheitskommunikation sukzessive erweitert. ...
... Die Gesundheitskommunikation im Präventionsnetzwerk Kein Täter werden ist strukturell in die Säulen (1) Netzwerkarbeit, (2) Öffentlichkeitsarbeit, (3) Patient:innenrekrutierung und (4) Pressearbeit untergliedert und verfolgt primär das Ziel, die Inanspruchnahme des therapeutischen Angebotes zu steigern. Dies schließt auch die gezielte Reduktion der gesellschaftlichen Ächtung von MAPs mit ein, da sich die verhaltensunabhängige Stigmatisierung bei Betroffenen ungünstig auf das Hilfesuchverhalten, die psychische Gesundheit und das Risiko für sexuell grenzverletzendes Verhalten auswirken kann (Jahnke, 2018). ...
... Pädophilie wird in der öffentlichen Debatte und dem Fachdiskurs häufig mit Dissexualität gleichgesetzt (Stelzmann, Jahnke & Kuhle, 2020). • Fremd-und Selbststigmatisierung beeinflussen Risikofaktoren für dissexuelles Verhalten negativ (Jahnke, 2018 Bedeutsame Endpunkte zur Beurteilung der Zielerreichung sind (1) die Anzahl der Kontaktaufnahmen an den Standorten des Präventionsnetzwerks im zeitlichen Verlauf (Hilfesuchverhalten) sowie (2) die Veränderung des "Framings" der Pädophilie in der Berichterstattung und der öffentlichen sowie fachlichen Diskussion (Entstigmatisierung). Systematisch erhobene und zur Qualitätsentwicklung verwendete Indikatoren sind die Häufigkeit und Inhalte der Berichterstattung, die Art und Anzahl der erreichten Zielgruppen, die Reaktion auf und Interaktion mit (Online-)Kampagneninhalten, die Häufigkeit und Art der Nutzung der Webseite sowie Merkmale der erreichten Patientenpopulation (z.B. Alter, Geschlecht, Deliktvorbelastung). ...
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Zusammenfassung Es ist eine verbreitete Annahme, dass Pädophilie eine nahezu ausschließlich bei Männern vorkommende Störung der Sexualpräferenz darstellt. In diesem Artikel werden überblicksartig Befunde und Theorien zu Geschlechtsunterschieden bezüglich der Häufigkeit sexueller Fantasien und paraphiler Interessen (insbesondere Pädophilie) sowie zu sexuellem Kindesmissbrauch dargestellt und kritisch diskutiert, auch hinsichtlich forschungsmethodischer Artefakte. Im Anschluss werden drei Fallbeispiele nicht-männlicher Betroffener mit auf Kindern ausgerichteten sexuellen Fantasien aus dem Präventionsnetzwerk Kein Täter werden vorgestellt. Dabei identifizieren sich zwei der Personen als eindeutig weiblich, eine Person ordnet sich als Frau-zu-Mann-Transsexueller ein. Anhand dieser Beispiele werden Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede nicht-männlicher Personen mit pädophilen Fantasien erörtert und Implikationen für die praktische Arbeit mit weiblichen bzw. nicht-männlichen Betroffenen diskutiert. Schlüsselwörter: Pädophilie, Geschlechtsunterschiede, Frauen, Transsexualität, sexuelle Fantasien Abstract It is a widespread assumption that pedophilia is a sexual preference disorder that almost exclusively affects males. In this article, findings and theories on sex/gender differences regarding the frequency of sexual fantasies and paraphilic interests (especially pedophilia) as well as child sexual abuse are outlined and critically discussed, also with regard to artifacts of research methodology. Subsequently, we present three case studies of non-male participants with sexual fantasies directed at children who attended the prevention network. Two of the participants identify themselves as unambiguously female, one participant classifies himself as a female-to-male transsexual. Based on these examples, similarities and differences of non- male persons with pedophilic fantasies are elaborated and implications for practical work with female (or, more broadly, non-male) participants are drawn. Keywords: Pedophilia, Sex differences, Women, Transsexuality, Sexual fantasies
... Due to the high levels of stigma and criminal associations with pedophilia (Jahnke, 2018), misidentifications can trigger a devastating cascade of events that can cause serious harm to clients such as practitioners inappropriately referring individuals with P-OCD symptoms to Child Protective Services (Bruce et al., 2018). In such instances, misdiagnoses may result not only in inappropriate treatment but also false reports of sexual abuse, worsening of symptoms, undue trauma to clients and their families, and potential legal complications. ...
... At a conceptual level, more research on differences between true pedophilia and general minor attraction (i.e., attraction to anyone under 18) is needed. Because many in the public do not make a distinction between pedophilia and minor attraction and conflate both with offending (Jahnke, 2018), data on specific differences between minor attraction and pedophilia are needed. This includes differences in identification/diagnosis, connection to offending, mental health provider reactions, and treatment outcomes. ...
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Despite the prevalence of atypical sexual thoughts in OCD presentations, research suggests that treatment providers often misclassify OCD with pedophilic obsessions (P-OCD) as pedophilic disorder. Such misdiagnoses can have adverse effects including inappropriate treatment, worsening of symptoms, and potential legal complications. Given these iatrogenic effects, clinicians must be competent in differentiating between these two conditions. To clarify the difficult differential between P-OCD and pedophilic disorder, the current paper provides readers with two vignettes that illustrate the differential process. These vignettes highlight important distinctions in symptom presentations and common pitfalls when assessing for P-OCD and pedophilic disorder. The first vignette describes a 32-year-old married woman who experienced pedophilic-themed intrusive thoughts, leading her to avoid children and certain interactions with her daughter. The second vignette describes a 42-year-old married man who experienced ego-dystonic attraction toward minors, particularly 8–10-year-old girls. Following these vignettes, treatment implications and forensic implications are discussed. Finally, recommendations for future clinical and empirical work are made.
... According to surveys of MAPs (B4U-ACT, 2011), the primary focus of this population when seeking support is related to coping with mental health issues that stem from a combination of social and self-stigmatization (Goodier & Lievesley, 2018;Grady et al., 2019;Jahnke, 2018;Levenson & Grady, 2019b;McPhail et al., 2018). As such, in this paper we present what we believe to be the first systematic analysis of the beliefs, knowledge, and decision-making processes of primary (i.e., non-specialist) healthcare professionals in relation to working with patients who disclose sexual attractions to children. ...
... However, for the reasons identified, their experiences can be negative due to a combination of perceived clinician stigma, potentially incongruent treatment targets, and a lack of professional experience of working with individuals with sexual attractions to children. Specialists (operationalized here as healthcare professionals who specifically work with MAPs in therapeutic or preventative services) providing support in the management of sexual attractions to children receive advanced training to help MAPs to separate their attractions from their behavior and to live happy, healthy, and offense-free lives (Goodier & Lievesley, 2018;Jahnke, 2018;Parr & Pearson, 2019). Research exploring the role of specialists in MAPs' help-seeking has identified how such services are often inaccessible or poorly publicized (Goodier & Lievesley, 2018;Parr & Pearson, 2019), which also leads to lower levels of service take-up. ...
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There is a desire and need among minor-attracted persons (MAPs) to access support within the community, and this often begins with an approach to healthcare providers working in general medical/mental health settings. However, little is known about the experiences of these non-specialist professionals in relation to their beliefs, knowledge, and decision-making processes when working with patients who disclose sexual attractions to children. Using an online survey, this study explored the knowledge, comfort, competence, and treatment willingness of 220 non-specialist healthcare providers when faced with patients who disclose sexual attractions to children. We investigated how often such disclosures were made, clinician stigma, treatment priorities, and professionals’ willingness to report MAPs to external agencies because of their sexual attractions. Some key differences were found when comparing primary medical vs. mental health professionals, including increased likelihood to view MAPs as dangerous, unable to control behaviors and that sexual attractions are an avoidable choice, in the former group. Both groups prioritized mental health treatment targets above controlling attractions and living with stigmatized attractions, although controlling or changing attractions were still relatively high priorities. Results indicated a need for further training, focusing on increasing comfort around working with MAPs, as this was associated with a greater willingness to work with this group. We identify current gaps in service provision for MAPs seeking professional support and discuss recommendations for professional training.
... Har personen begået seksualkriminalitet mod et barn, kan det vaere yderst vanskeligt at komme tilbage på arbejdsmarkedet grundet kravet om ren straffeattest og angsten for social fordømmelse. Manglende arbejde, isolationen, marginaliseringen og fravaeret af intimitet med andre øger indirekte disse personers risiko for at begå (fornyet) seksualkriminalitet; stigmaet ender paradoksalt nok med at få den modsatte effekt af, hvad der var intenderet fremfor at mindske risiko for overgreb på børn, kan stigmaet medvirke til at øge risiko for overgreb på børn (Jahnke, 2018). Stigmaet betyder også, at personer med seksuelle tanker om børn afholder sig fra at opsøge sundhedssystemet og fra at oplyse behandlere i sundhedssystemet om den seksuelle interesse i børn (ibid.). ...
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Formålet med dette kapitel er at fremme viden om pædofili en stigmatiseret og ofte misforstået tilstand. Det sætter fokus på, hvad pædofili er, og hvad det ikke er, f.eks. hvilke kriterier der skal være opfyldt, hvor udbredt det er, og forekomsten i forhold til seksualkriminalitet.
... Har personen begået seksualkriminalitet mod et barn, kan det vaere yderst vanskeligt at komme tilbage på arbejdsmarkedet grundet kravet om ren straffeattest og angsten for social fordømmelse. Manglende arbejde, isolationen, marginaliseringen og fravaeret af intimitet med andre øger indirekte disse personers risiko for at begå (fornyet) seksualkriminalitet; stigmaet ender paradoksalt nok med at få den modsatte effekt af, hvad der var intenderet fremfor at mindske risiko for overgreb på børn, kan stigmaet medvirke til at øge risiko for overgreb på børn (Jahnke, 2018). Stigmaet betyder også, at personer med seksuelle tanker om børn afholder sig fra at opsøge sundhedssystemet og fra at oplyse behandlere i sundhedssystemet om den seksuelle interesse i børn (ibid.). ...
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Dette kapitel giver et overblik over, hvad der karakteriserer voksne, der begår overgreb på børn, hvad der kan være baggrunden for at begå overgreb, og hvordan der kan forsøges dæmmet op for overgreb blandt andet med behandling
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Background. Social support for child-attracted persons (CAPs) may be important for increasing well-being and thereby reducing risk of committing child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, in-person social support may be difficult to obtain because of stigma (Imhoff, 2015; Jahnke, 2018). CAPs may instead turn to online forums for people who are sexually attracted to children. The present study looked at the emotional, informational, and tangible support CAPs offered and received through online forums. Method. We recruited 353 CAPs from Twitter and multiple online forums. The survey covered basic demographics, frequency of forum use, reasons for forum use, social support received or offered, helpfulness of forums, and their quality of offline support. Results. Most CAPs said they initially sought out forums to avoid feeling alone in their attraction; the quality of offline support was rated as moderate. Emotional and informational support were the most frequently endorsed forms of social support. CAPs who visited more forums reported forums to be less helpful. A Poisson regression predicting online support from quality of offline support and various demographic and forum use variables did not reveal any significant results. Implications. This is the first quantitative study to look at the benefits of forums for CAPs regarding specific types of social support. We consider if certain forums could be part of a repertoire of resources for CAPs who may be struggling, in addition to professional help.
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SeriE-hankkeessa kehitetään ennaltaehkäiseviä tukimuotoja ja hoitopolkuja henkilöille, joiden seksuaalinen kiinnostus kohdistuu lapsiin. Hankkeen ensimmäisen toimintakauden päätteeksi toteutettiin laadullinen tutkimus, jossa tarkasteltiin asiakastyössä tapahtuvia muutosprosesseja ja tukipalvelun toiminnan merkitystä sen asiakkaille. Tutkimusta varten haastateltiin hankkeessa vuosina 2018–2020 kohdattuja asiakkaita. Haastateltavien kertomuksissa merkittävimmät SeriE-hankkeen asiakasprosessissa tapahtuvat muutokset liittyivät helpotuksen tunteeseen sekä käynnistyvään prosessiin lapsikohteisen seksuaalisuuden integroimiseksi osaksi omaa kokonaispersoonallisuutta. Tapaustutkimus tuottaa erityislaatuisen tietoa siitä, mitä SeriE-hankkeen terapeuttisissa prosesseissa tapahtuu ja minkälaiset vaikutukset ja muutokset ovat mahdollisia ennaltaehkäisevässä asiakastyössä.
In order to treat individuals with pedophilia ¹ who are at risk of committing offenses, disclosure of the attraction must first take place. The aim of this study was to understand processes of initial recognition of pedophilic attraction, disclosure, and help-seeking. We conducted a qualitative content analysis of online posts from self-identified individuals with pedophilia, finding four categories: (1) Awareness and Initial Self-View (with emotions including denial, shame, and fear), (2) Disclosure (typically made to family, friends, or therapists, but also done online in an anonymous way), (3) People’s Reactions to Disclosure (ranging from rejection to support), and (4) Current Self-View (including minimization, distortions, despair, resignation, and non-offending/anti-contact commitment). Our findings highlight the internal process experienced by individuals with pedophilia when first recognizing their attraction to minors, what is involved in disclosure, the importance of others’ reactions after disclosure, and the factors that can reinforce a non-offending commitment. Clinical and social implications are discussed.
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People with paedophilia are a highly stigmatised group-even more so over recent years in which reports of child sexual abuse have risen, and sensationalist media coverage intensified. For people with paedophilia, whom many assume to also be sex offenders, the risk of exposure to prejudice-driven crime is high. In this article, I pose the question of whether people with paedophilia should be included in hate crime legislation across the world. I conclude that they should be included under the so-called vulnerability-and-deinvididualisation approach that I suggest in this paper. According to this approach, groups should be protected by hate crime legislation, if they are discriminated against significantly more often than groups who only experience prejudice-driven crimes on a rare basis (vulnerability). Furthermore, they should only be protected if the crime is targeted towards a whole group instead of a specific individual (deinvidualisation). However, via a subclause, this approach excludes certain groups who would fall under the two outlined premises but whose attributes harm the ideals of a pluralistic society that hate crime legislation seeks to foster. I conclude with broader implications on victim inclusion criteria. The boundaries of victim protection criteria 2
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The present study compares community-based minor attracted persons (MAPs) with and without histories of sexual activity with children. MAP-Actors (N = 342) were significantly older than Non-Actors (N = 223), with longer duration of pedophilic attraction, more antisocial traits, greater attraction to boys, greater difficulty controlling their attraction and more positive attitudes towards adult-child sexual activity. Additionally, more MAP-Actors reported prior mental health treatment, nonsexual offenses, and childhood sexual and nonsexual abuse. Over 1/3 of the whole sample reported chronic suicidal ideation. These findings support the existence of MAPs who successfully refrain from sexually engaging with children, identifying multiple protective and risk factors.
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Cognitive and affective antecedents of the desire to avoid or punish non-offending pedophilic individuals are not well understood. In this article, we examined the effects of non-offending motivation (internal vs. external) and sexual orientation (pedophilic vs. teleiophilic) on cognitive apprehensions (amorality, dangerousness, abnormality), emotions (fear, anger, disgust), punitive attitudes, and social distance towards a man experiencing a sexually transgressive impulse. Two hundred and five US-based MTurk workers were randomly assigned to one of four groups in this 2 x 2 factorial vignette study. As expected, pedophilic orientations and extrinsic non-offending motivations led to stronger negative apprehensions and emotions, as well as higher social distance and punitive attitudes. When controlling for the other emotions, disgust mediated the effect of pedophilic orientation on social distance, while anger and fear mediated the effect of non-offending motivation on punitive attitudes. Disgust, fear, and anger were furthermore differentially associated with perceived amorality, dangerousness, and abnormality. This research helps clarify why desires to punish or avoid non-offending pedophilic men are so strong, even when they never commit sexual crimes.
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Recent research has established marked punitive attitudes against people sexually interested in children. These negative attitudes are even more pronounced when such sexual interest is labelled as pedophilia, but are attenuated to the extent that such sexual interest is perceived as beyond one's own control (unintentional). We explored these effects in more detail by separately manipulating the label (pedophiles vs. people with sexual interest in prepubescent children) and degree of intentionality (pedophilia or sexual desire as malleable vs. not malleable). Participants recruited via an online platform (N = 423) were randomly assigned to the experimental conditions and asked to rate degree of intentionality, dangerousness, deviance, and punitive attitudes toward people sexually interested in children. As expected, participants expressed stronger punitive attitudes when the label was present. The manipulation of intentionality, however, was not successful. Further analyses explored whether participants found the notion that sexual interest cannot be altered at will more credible than the opposite, particularly in presence of the pedophilia label. The results are discussed with regard to the significance of and potential intervention against the markedly strong public stigma against people with pedophilia.
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This study attempts to measure cognitions about adult-child sex by approaching the issue from a perspective of moral attitudes. We assessed ratings regarding direct and indirect harmfulness, nonconsent, exploitation, and differences in adults’ and children’s sexualities based on a description of adult-child sex without apparent child discomfort among an online sample of 120 pedohebephilic and 89 nonpedohebephilic German-speaking men. The results show that only 7.5% among pedohebephilic men had equal or less permissive attitudes than the average control, while 4.5% of nonpedohebephilic men had equal or more permissive attitudes than the average pedohebephilic man. Both groups did not, however, differ in their appraisal that children may suffer indirect harm via stigmatization. The findings also indicate that the moral perception of adult-child sex shows little differentiation among German-speaking lay people. We discuss the relevance of these findings for clinical practice and propose ideas for subsequent research.
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Stigmatization and societal punitiveness about pedophilia have a range of potential consequences, such as the social isolation of people with sexual interest in children, and the formation of policies that are not consistent with empirical research findings. Previous research has shown that people with pedophilic sexual interests use societal thinking to self-stigmatize, which in turn may actually serve to increase their risk of committing a sexual offense. In this study, we compared two attitudinal interventions (first-person narrative vs. expert opinion) using a student sample (N = 100). It was hypothesized that both interventions would lead to reductions in stigmatization and punitive attitudes about pedophiles on an explicit (self-report) level but that only the narrative intervention would lead to reductions of these constructs at the implicit level. Our findings supported both hypotheses. We further discuss the role of narrative humanization in this area and offer suggestions for further research based upon the theoretical and methodological implications of the findings.
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Adults with pedophilic interests are often viewed by the public as a homogenous subgroup based on what we know from those who sexually offend against children. The stigma associated with child sexual abuse may serve to deter such behaviors but may also interfere with the person’s stability and willingness to seek assistance in managing pedophilic interests. This article contrasts the sex offender response and prevention efforts typically employed in the U.S. (i.e., containment, registration, and notification policies and public education programs) with treatment programs aimed at preventing child sexual abuse in Germany, Belgium, and Canada. Five major areas are identified that should be further examined with regard to implementing preventative outreach and treatment programs in the U.S.: barriers to outreach and treatment programs, how to expand or reframe current preventative educational programs, implementation of such programs in light of current mandating reporting policies, promising treatment approaches for pedophilic interests among non-offenders, and ethical concerns relevant to preventative psychological interventions.
We conducted an Internet survey of 1,102 men sexually attracted to children concerning their history of adjudicated offenses related to child pornography and sexual contact with children. Most of the men reported no offenses, but their rate of offenses was much higher than that expected for adult-attracted men. Correlates of offending are consistent with a strong role of the cumulative effects of temptation, especially age. Older men, men who had repeatedly worked in jobs with children, men who had repeatedly fallen in love with children, and men who had often struggled not to offend were especially likely to have offended. Attraction to male children, relative attraction to children versus adults, and childhood sexual abuse experiences were also strong predictors of offending. In contrast, permissive attitudes regarding child-adult sex and frequent indulgence in sexual fantasies about children were not significantly related to offending. Our findings represent the first large study of offending among men sexually attracted to children who were not recruited via contact with the legal system. Because of methodological limitations, our findings cannot be definitive. Reassuringly, however, results are generally consistent with those from the most pertinent existing studies, of recidivism among convicted sex offenders.
Der wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung der Stigmatisierung von Menschen mit sexuellem Interesse an Kindern wurde lange Zeit wenig Aufmerksamkeit geschenkt. Im Hinblick auf die Pravention von sexuellem Kindesmissbrauch, die auch die psychotherapeutische Behandlung padophiler Personen einschliest, ist die Beforschung des Stigmas der Padophilie ein wichtiger Schritt. In der vorliegenden Studie wurden 26 angehende russische Sexualtherapeut_innen anhand eines Fragebogens zu Annahmen uber die Beeinflussbarkeit und Gefahrlichkeit von Padophilie, zu ihren emotionalen Reaktionen auf sowie zu ihren Wunschen nach sozialer Distanz zu Menschen mit Padophilie befragt. Zu Vergleichszwecken wurden diese Variablen ebenfalls in Bezug auf Menschen, die missbrauchlich Alkohol konsumieren, erhoben. Es zeigte sich, dass die Teilnehmer_innen Padophilie als weniger beeinflussbar ansahen als Alkoholmissbrauch, jedoch als gefahrlicher fur Kinder und Jugendliche. Des Weiteren empfanden sie beim Gedanken an Menschen mit sexuellem Interesse an Kindern weniger Mitleid sowie mehr Angst und Wut. Ebenso wunschten sie sich mehr soziale Distanz zu diesen Menschen als zu Menschen, die missbrauchlich Alkohol konsumieren. Die Ergebnisse werden im Kontext weiterer Studien zur Stigmatisierung von Menschen mit Padophilie diskutiert.