Pedophilia: Causes and Typologies


Perhaps no single act causes such strong emotions as the act of child
sexual abuse. Child molesters can not even find refuge in prisons where
rapists and murderers are commonplace. These offenders are shunned in every
aspect of our society, yet there is no consensus as to the causes of this
behavior.
Sexual abuse of children is not new, and has not always been socially
taboo. The ancient Greeks and Romans used children for sexual
gratification(Langevin, 1983). In Greece, it was commonplace for adolescent
males to be forced into sexual relationships with mature males. This behavior
was normal and not objected to by the child's parents nor the Greek
government(Langevin, 1983). The Romans encouraged adolescent boys and girls not
to protest being sold into prostitution. The Roman government even went so far
as to declare a public holiday honoring young prostitutes(Kahr, 1991).
Sex with children in the modern era is alive and well, the power of an
older person is so great that their young victims often never tell of the
horrors that they have endured. There is also a pedophile enhancement movement,
with confessed pedophiles insisting that their behavior is not wrong or immoral.
Organizations dedicated to the social acceptance of sex with children are not
new, yet have had a large upstart in membership since the early 1970's(Charon,
1979).
Because of the extreme sensitivity of the subject, research in this
field is quite underdeveloped. Researchers have even had trouble in agreeing
what to call the phenomenon. Much research on the victims has dubbed the act as
child sexual abuse, most research on the offenders has labeled it as child
molesting or pedophilia. The term pedophilia has some utility since it suggests
a predisposition for the act separate from the act itself. The ambiguity of
this term however, is what causes confusion. Pedophilia can mean child sexual
abuse ranging from an arousal to children with no or little action, to sexual
penetration of the child. For the purposes of this paper the terms pedophilia,
child sexual abuse, and child molestation will be used interchangeably.
This paper will focus on the possible causes of child sexual abuse. It
will examine several etiologies of pedophiles as suggested by researchers. To
reduce this behavior in offenders, we must first attempt to gain an
understanding of WHY? This question has no easy answer, and the researchers in
this field have found very little to agree upon. There is is however, common
ground which may enable us to combine theories into a workable start to a
solution of the ?unspeakable crime?.
Pedophiles can be classified into different categories by several issues,
the most common of which are causation, and victim-relationship. Using
different classifications to isolate pedophiliac behavior can help us to
understand this behavior and begin to find methods in which it may be contained.
`

Classification of Pedophiles
Pedophile classification is a hotly debated topic that varies significantly
in it's origins. There are a few standards however, pedophiles can be
separated by those who sexually abuse members of there own family or step-
families, and those who abuse non-family members(Langevin, 1983). Even this
simple distinction is not always accurate though, often familial offenders have
previously offended non-family members(Hunter, 1990). Some common causes of
pedophilia have found much popular and scholarly support, and these etiologies
can give a general profile of some of the origins of child sexual abuse. While
the names of this etiologies vary greatly, the descriptions of each remain
essentially intact.

Conditioned Response Theory
Some researchers have maintained that the pedophile becomes conditioned
to respond to young, sexually under-developed bodies. It has been suggested
that boys begin masturbating to fantasies that involve sexually immature bodies,
and then become so conditioned to these images that they need them to create
sexual gratification(McGuire, Carlisle, & Young, 1965). Garland and
Dougher(1990) theorized two reasons for this behavior leading to the development
of pedophiliac behavior:(1) and adolescent's sexual activity with persons his or
her own age could condition sexual arousal to pubescent children, and (2)
through memory distortions that have occur with the passage of time, the child
or adolescent who was sexually victimized by an adult developed a fantasy that
places him or her in the role of the aggressor rather than in the role of the
victim. As a result of this recurrent fantasy, he or she then becomes sexually
conditioned to respond to children.
Learned behavior closely resembles the conditioned response theory.
Pedophilia as a learned behavior is due to sexual abuse of the abuser as a child.
The pedophile then begins to imitate this behavior later in life(Groth, Hobson,
and Gary, 1982).

Social Skills Theory
Social skills that have been underdeveloped or dysfunctional social
skills have been suggested as a possible explanation for pedophilia, especially
relating to persons of the opposite sex.