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A Pedophile is a person who engages in or fantasizes about sexual acts with children. Though the age of consent is different in every state, federal law dictates that thirteen is the absolute minimum.


The word comes from the Greek: παιδοφιλία (paidophilia): παῖς (pais), "child" and φιλία (philia), "friendship". Paidophilia was coined by Greek poets either as a substitute for "paiderastia" (pederasty), or vice versa.

The term paedophilia erotica was coined in 1886 by the Viennese psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing in his writing Psychopathia Sexualis. He listed the following characteristics:

  • The sexual interest is toward prepubescent youths only. This interest does not extend to the first signs of pubic hair.
  • The sexual interest is toward prepubescent youths only and does not include teenagers.
  • The sexual interest remains over time.

Adults sexually attracted to prepubescent youths were placed into three categories by Krafft-Ebing:

  1. pedophile
  2. surrogate (that is, the prepubescent youths are regarded as a substitute object for a preferred, non-available adult object)
  3. sadistic

These types have been expanded upon and updated over the years into a variety of typologies

Pedophiles and Child Molesters

Although they are usually employed interchangeably, the term "pedophile" should not be confused with "child molester". Even though many pedophiles are child molesters, and many child molesters are pedophiles, they should not be considered one and the same. A child molester is someone who engages in sexual acts with children, and not necessarily because he is mainly attracted by them. On the other hand, pedophiles mainly prefer to have sex with children but may simply fantasize about it without ever acting out. Below is a typology of child molesters (which include pedophilic preferential child molesters).


Ken Lanning, a former FBI agent and among the world's leading experts on crimes against children, along with forensic psychologist Park Dietz, defined different types of child molesters based on their classification as preferential or situational:

  • Preferential Child Molesters - Usually defined as "true pedophiles", they are individuals who prefer sex with children and have them as subjects of their fantasies. They are furtherly sub-classified as:
    • Seduction - Such molesters usually have a job which allows them to be in contact with children (e.g. teacher, coach). They have interpersonal skills and are good at communicating with children, whom they "court" with gifts and/or attention. Seduction-type molesters select their victims among children who are more vulnerable to their "courtings" (e.g. children who receive little affection at home). They end their "relationships" as soon as the child is too old to appeal to them any longer, at which point the molestation is usually reported (unless the molester verbally or physically threatens him, in the same way as he probably did before to avoid being discovered). An example of "seduction-type" child molester in the show is represented by Carl Buford.
    • Introverted - Unlike the "seduction-type", the introverted molester does not have the interpersonal skills required to lure his victims. He would hang around parks and playgrounds, watching kids. His sexual activities would be limited to brief encounters, and he would usually target strangers or much younger children. Introverted molesters act out their fantasies by making obscene phone calls to children, exposing theirselves, or having sex with child prostitutes. If they can't find any other way to obtain victims, they may even marry a woman with young children or have their own with her.
    • Sadistic - Just like sadistic rapists and killers of adults, they need to cause physical and/or psychological pain to be sexually aroused and satisfied. They would usually employ trickery or force to gain control of their victims and then torture them in some way. They are the most likely to abduct and murder their victims.
  • Situational Child Molesters - They differ from preferential molesters in the sense that their primary sexual drives and fantasies are directed at adults, but they have sex with children to satisfy some other need. They are furtherly sub-classified as:
    • Regressed - They would usually abuse their own children as they are more readily available. Regressed molesters have low self-esteem and have sex with children as a substitute for adults they can't approach. They are more likely to employ a lure or con rather than force, and the molestations are usually linked to precipitating stressors in their lives.
    • Morally Indiscriminate - They molest their own children or obtain more victims by use of a lure, con, or even force. Morally indiscriminate molesters are abusive in virtually all areas of their lives: they abuse their wives and friends, are liars and cheats at home and work, and have no qualms about stealing something they want. They also have no conscience and might act on impulse.
    • Sexually Indiscriminate - They abuse children because the experience seems new, exciting, and different to them. They'll try anything sexually, from group sex to spouse swapping to bondage. Sexually indiscriminate molesters usually come from a higher socioeconomic level, and are prone to molesting multiple victims.
    • Inadequate - They are social outsiders, with few friends, who keep living with their parents or an older relative as they grow older. For these subjects, children are nonthreatening, just like their other potential targets: the elderly and prostitutes. Their victim could be a child they know well or a stranger they can use as a substitute for a peer they can't approach. Inadequate molesters are not so much naturally sexually attracted to children as they are sexually curious, but insecure, around adults. This would also be reflected in their collection of pornography, involving adults, not children. These subjects are dangerous in the sense that, due to their withdrawal from society, their anger and hostility can build up to the point that they can torture and murder their victims as an outlet.


The cause or causes of pedophilia are not known. The experience of sexual abuse as a child was previously thought to be a strong risk factor, but research does not show a causal relationship, as the vast majority of sexually abused children do not grow up to be adult offenders, nor do the majority of adult offenders report childhood sexual abuse. The US Government Accountability Office concluded, "the existence of a cycle of sexual abuse was not established." Until 1996, there was greater belief in the theory of a "cycle of violence," because most of the research done was retrospective—abusers were asked if they had experienced past abuse. Even the majority of studies found that most adult sex offenders said they had not been sexually abused during childhood, but studies varied in terms of their estimates of the percentage of such offenders who had been abused, from 0 to 79 percent. More recent prospective longitudinal research — studying children with documented cases of sexual abuse over time to determine what percentage become adult offenders — has demonstrated that the cycle of violence theory is not an adequate explanation for why people molest children.

On Criminal Minds

Real World




  • Wikipedia article
  • John Douglas and Mark Olshaker. Journey Into Darkness. Gallery Books. 2010. ISBN: 978-1-439-19981-7