Wilson and Cox (1983) argue for a socio-biological explanation:
In this sentence lies a theory of paedophiles which holds that they are unable to become effectively involved with women. They are much like the animals who fail to succeed in the herd's sexual pecking order -- who have to seek substitute activity with immature females and males.
Wilson and Cox based their argument on data gathered in a postal survey of members of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Formed in 1977, this London-based organization sought to spread knowledge and understanding about paedophiles in order to alleviate the guilt and isolation that they experience. About half of those sent the questionnaire replied, and a number of these were also interviewed.
Thirty-eight per cent were professionals, 34% were white-collar workers and 14% were blue- collar workers (the remainder were either unemployed or provided no pertinent information). Teachers made up an eighth of the men, which led the researchers to suggest gravitation towards jobs with high contact with children, although not necessarily for sexual reasons.
In general, there was no evidence that the paedophiles
demonstrated clinically abnormal levels on any of the measures. Nevertheless, as assessed by the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ), paedophiles were more psychotic, introverted and neurotic than the general population. Some caution is needed because some of these differences were small, despite being statistically significant.
Additional trends included:
It might be more useful to indicate the sorts of questions on which paedophiles were most unlike the general population:
Wilson and Cox argue that extraversion is partially inherited and that the paedophile's early experiences of isolation and inadequacy stemming from early childhood are constitutional in origin. They concede that some social anxiety and withdrawal might be caused by society's hostility to the paedophile; the personality characteristics may thus be an effect of, rather than a cause of, paedophilia.
Nevertheless, they prefer the innatist argument:
Paedophiles most frequently mentioned naive innocence as the most attractive quality in children and "softness, simplicity, openness and willingness to learn". Male sexuality perhaps requires some measure of social dominance for satisfactory arousal and competent sexual performance. Paedophiles, lacking this competition and social competency, are more at home relating to children. Many of the paedophiles felt children were easier to approach than adults.
Paedophilia is seen as "adaptive", just one of several means of coping with failure to relate satisfactorily with women:
Whether this accounts for any truly paedophile activity is a moot point. It seems not to deal with the "true" paedophile, who shows a virtually exclusive sexual arousal pattern to children with no interest in adult women from childhood onwards.
So, although there are few signs of clinical abnormality in paedophiles, personality is partially responsible for their offending. The approach of Wilson and Cox is exceptional among psychometric approaches to paedophilia in that it attempts to postulate a theoretical account on the basis of psychological measurements.
While considerable reservations have to be expressed about the thesis that paedophiles cannot relate to women, especially given their skill at, for example, infiltrating single-parent families, we cannot afford to be too cavalier towards the limited theories available.
Turning to the more purely empirical investigations of the paedophile's personality, Peters (1976) described the results of psychological tests given to a large sample of sexual offenders including
A variety of psychological measures were used. Concentrating on paedophiles, he reported a particularly large number of physical symptoms but fewer signs of emotional disturbance. Peters suggests that paedophiles turn emotional problems into physical ones, which means that they:
Paedophiles were also found to be immature, with strong dependency needs. They appeared to be less confused about their sex role identification but with a high level of anxiety about their physique and bodily functioning. Under stress, they were inclined to withdraw and become isolated, a tendency also indicated by their drawings:
In contrast to the common view of paedophiles as inadequate, the offenders rated themselves above average in terms of physical characteristics, intellect, education, ability at work, and social and marital relationships:
In general, there is a degree of inconsistency in the psychological test data on paedophiles. It is useful, then, to remember Levih and Stava's (1987) review, which sought psychometric differences between paedophiles and other men.
A number of difficulties are inherent in much of this research -- in particular, little effort is usually made to identify paedophiles as a "pure" category rather than a group of men who offend against children but who also have a history of other forms of offending.
The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) is one of the more commonly used measures in this area. Primarily, it assesses psychopathology rather than personality. Although there are several empirically derived subscales of the inventory, generally speaking, research reveals few differences between paedophiles and others:
In other words, research using the MMPI provides no clear-cut, strong trends that might help us to understand paedophilia better.
Much the same sort of conclusion was reached by Okami and Goldberg (1992) in reviewing the research evidence on the social inadequacy of sexual offenders against minors using the MMPI.
Summarizing research using psychometric measures other than the MMPI, Levin and Stava (1987) tentatively suggest away in which personality might be associated with paedophilia:
However , these characteristics might also be produced by the nature of the settings in which such research takes place, usually prison:
The possibility of finding a simple personality profile that differentiates paedophiles from other men has appeared increasingly unrealistic as the research and clinical base has widened.
Simplistic notions such as social inadequacy driving men to sex with children become unviable as highly socially skilled paedophiles are found. With few exceptions, personality studies of paedophiles have been empirically orientated, with scant attention paid to theory.
Perhaps even less encouraging is the lack of power of personality tests to distinguish clearly among types of paedophile, let alone between paedophiles and other types of sex offenders.