pedophilia, psychosexual disorder in which there is a preference for sexual activity with prepubertal children. Pedophiles are almost always males. The children are more often of the opposite sex (about twice as often) and are typically 13 years or age or younger; they may be within or outside the pedophile's family. Sexual fantasies, looking, or fondling are more common than genital contact. Sexual offenses against children make up a significant proportion of reported criminal sex acts.
The cause or causes of pedophilia are not well understood. Personality problems may be evident, and the pedophile often shows little or no concern for the effects of his sexual behavior on the child. Researchers have reported that psychotherapy in conjunction with the use of testosterone-lowering drugs has substantially reduced the desire in male pedophiles to molest children. See also child abuse.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.