Pedophilia is the sexual attraction to prepubescent children by adults over the age of 16.

What Is Pedophilia?

Pedophilia is technically defined as sexual attraction to children who have not yet entered puberty. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, used by many mental health clinicians to make diagnoses, defines pedophilia as persistent and chronic attraction to children that the person with pedophilia has either acted upon or which has caused intense distress. However, the term has taken on broader cultural meaning and is now used to denote anyone who engages in inappropriate sexual behavior with or who has inappropriate sexual thoughts toward children of any age. Pedophilia and child molesting are often treated as interchangeable terms, even though their technical definitions are different. Hebephilia is the attraction to pubescent children between the ages of 11 and 14, and ephebophilia is attraction to children in late adolescence.

How Is Pedophilia Treated?

Although pedophilia is classified as a mental health condition, is has often been treated as a criminal orientation. For this reason, people with pedophilia often do not seek treatment and people are more likely to be labeled as pedophiles due to their dealing with the criminal justice system rather than as a result of a psychiatric diagnosis. The fact that children cannot give consent to sex with adults means that pedophilia cannot be treated as a normative sexual orientation. While some people with pedophilia engage in illegal behavior, such as sexual molestation of minors, not all people with pedophilia act on their sexual desires.

The possibility of rehabilitation for people with pedophilia has been hotly contested. There are limited treatment options for people with pedophilia in the United States, and these treatment methods have shown only limited success. Chemical castration, a once popular option for male sex offenders, has shown only a mild reduction in recidivism. In some cases, people with pedophilia who seek treatment end up incarcerated, which serves as a disincentive for seeking treatment.


  1. Jenkins, P. (1998). Moral panic: Changing concepts of the child molester in modern America. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  2. Savage, D. (n.d.). Gold star pedophiles. The Stranger. Retrieved from

Last Updated: 08-17-2015

  • Leave a Comment
  • ri

    October 10th, 2016 at 10:22 PM

    My name. lori I was.6 years old enter kindergarten I was molested find my homeroom teacher the principal my PE teacher 4 8 years so I was in the 8th grade I never told my parents it would quickly end still to this day I never could never figure out how that’s all my teachers found out that my mother did not get home from work till six six thirty in the evening and I would normally get home all by myself so they heard me 4/8 hours 5 days a week major the

  • The Team

    October 11th, 2016 at 2:51 PM

    Hi Lori,
    Please know there is help available if you experience effects from past abuse, assault, or trauma. You can search for a therapist on here:

    Thank you so much for your courage in sharing your experiences here. We are thinking of you and wishing you all the best. ♥

    Kind regards,
    The Team

  • Analine

    June 7th, 2018 at 7:37 PM

    I have a question, so um i don’t know exactly what it is called when your own family member molests you. so i was molested by one of my family members and I told my mom and Dad but I decided not to do anything about it because I knew it would affect the whole family and they wouldn’t believe me. This was 5 to 6 years ago while and today I have genophobia, I have a short temper and get sensitive when it come to topics related to what I went through. I need help to recover and recuperate from this, but I fear talking or see someone in person to talk about this because I feel ashamed of myself.

  • Christy

    January 2nd, 2021 at 3:12 AM

    How can I get help for a family member if I suspect them of being a pedophile? Are there any therapists who can help this problem from getting out of hand?

  • Jon Cuntado

    June 10th, 2021 at 5:15 AM

    need therapy

  • Sara GT

    June 10th, 2021 at 6:58 AM

    Dear Jon, If therapy is something you might need, you can start finding mental health professionals in your area by entering your city or ZIP code into the search field on this page: Once you enter your information, you’ll be directed to a list of therapists and counselors who meet your criteria. You may click to view our members’ full profiles and contact the therapists themselves for more information. If you need help finding a therapist, you are welcome to call us. We are in the office Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Mountain Time, and our phone number is 888-563-2112 ext 3. Kind regards, The GoodTherapy Team

  • Royce

    September 24th, 2021 at 6:15 PM

    I recently saw a Ted Talk about pedophilia being a Sexual Orientation, I also read that a pedophiles brain is wired pretty much the same as a homosexuals so I am wondering, if this condition can’t be changed why can’t the Child Size TPE Dolls be prescribed to help relieve the stresses and pressures associated with pedophilia. I am an Age Play Therapist and the few clients that have been brave enough to come forward and ask for help usually just like looking and say that they don’t want to hurt a child but it seems that all the material they come by is riddled with violence. So I provide a non violent non abusive approach to this mental health condition virtually. Sadly I’m not finding much information on a more positive approach. Even as your article states chemical castration doesn’t even make much of a difference this is why I believe providing a surrogate could help save a few Real Children. I would like to be more public about my belief and what I have decided to do in order to help. I am a survivor of extreme abuse and I have already discussed my service with the FBI and they leave me alone and let me do my job. I think it’s just awful that people who have no control over this and have no desire to actually harm children are forced to scrounge around like degenerate criminals in order to find material to release their tension. I also have found that most are survivos of abuse as well. Not having a way to release the pressure only puts real children in danger!

  • Josef

    October 25th, 2021 at 10:36 PM

    Try out Prostasia Foundation and their forum, the topic is sometimes discussed along with research!

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