Pedophilia: Clinical Features, Etiology and Treatment
There is a growing recognition that child sexual abuse is a critical public health problem. Child sexual abusement is not a medical diagnosis and is not necessarily a term synonymous with pedophilia. According to DSM-IV, a pedophile is an individual who fantasizes about, is sexually aroused by, or experiences sexual urges toward prepubescent children (generally <13 years) for a period of at least 6 months. It is difficult to estimate the true prevalence of pedophilia because few pedophiles voluntarily seek treatment. Most of the available data are based on individuals who have become involved with the legal system. Most individuals who engage in pedophilia are male. When compared with other sex offenders, pedophiles are in the older adult age range (age, 40-70 years). Pedophiles may engage in a wide range of sexual acts with children. These activities includes exposing themselves to children, looking at naked children, masturbating in the presence of children, physical contact, rubbing, fondling a child, engaging in oral sex, or penetration of the mouth, anus, and/or vagina. Generally, pedophiles do not use force to have children engage in these activities but instead rely on various forms of psychic manipulation and desensitization. People with pedophilia use internet to be a vehicle capable of meeting their needs: obtaining information, monitoring and contacting victims, developing fantasy, overcoming inhibitions, avoiding apprehension, and communicating with other offenders. The compulsive-aggressive trait is more pronounced in people with pedophilia. Generally they plan the sexual offending with the intention of relieving internal pressures or urges. Pedophiles generally experience feelings of inferiority, isolation or loneliness, low self-esteem, internal dysphoria, and emotional immaturity. There are likely multiple factors and multiple pathways involved in the development of pedophilia. Since there has been no treatment method that can alter the pedophile’s sexual orientation toward children, much of the focus of pedophilic treatment is on stopping further offenses against children. The combination of pharmacologic and behavioral treatment coupled with close legal supervision appears to help reduce the risk of repeated offense. Currently chemical castration; testosterone suppression by antiandrogenic therapy is a popular treatment option. Effective prevention is most effective means to manage the sexual abusement of children. For primary prevention and treatment, it is necessary to know the characteristics of pedophilia and understand the factors that lead to the development of the pedophilic tendencies.