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"A portrait of the paedophile? Perhaps this is an irrelevant question, because it seems on the whole that a paedophile is a person like you and me." 
(Bernard, 1985, p. 86) 

"Another common idea about sexual offenders one hears in community settings (especially in expert testimony in legal proceedings) is that there is a 'profile' which describes sexual offenders. Court testimony often includes the opinion: 'this man couldn't have done it, because he doesn't fit the profile' ... 
There is no currently verified profile of the typical adult who sexually abuses children. Indeed, all available information suggests that there is considerable variation in the characteristics of men who have sex with children. Virtually every characteristic has been found not to be present in at least some cases." 
(Conte, 1985, p. 345) 

Wilson and Cox (1983) argue for a socio-biological explanation: 

"Paedophiles are variously shown to be timid, isolated, dependent, submissive, effeminate, sexually inhibited and generally not adequate to the task of competition with other men for adult heterosexual conquests." 
(Wilson and Cox, 1983 .323) 

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

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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: 

(1) Higher psychoticism was associated with being exclusively paedophile and preferring younger ideal partners; 

(2) Higher scores on extraversion were found in those who were sexually interested in both adults and children; and

(3) Higher levels of neuroticism were to be associated with unhappiness about being paedophile and a greater inclination to seek professional help. 

It might be more useful to indicate the sorts of questions on which paedophiles were most unlike the general population: 

"Do you tend to keep in the background on social occasions?": 
39% more paedophiles said "yes" than normals. 

"Are your feelings easily hurt?": 
44% more paedophiIes said "yes". 

"Do you often feel lonely?": 
83% more paedophiles said "yes". 

"Have you ever wished you were dead?": 
39% more paedophiles said "yes". 

"Do good manners and cleanliness matter much to you?": 
19% fewer paedophiles said "yes". 

Concern with looks. 
"Do you worry a lot about your looks?": 
43% fewer paedophiles said "yes". 

Sense of humour. 
"Do you like telling jokes and funny stories to your friends?": 
28% fewer paedophiles said "yes". 

Relationship with mother. 
"Is (was) your mother a good woman?": 
10% fewer paedophiles said "yes". 

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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: 

"Examination of the characteristics of children that the paedophiles found most attractive points to the conclusion that the ability to achieve social dominance over the child may be the key to understanding the paedophile's choice of sex target," 
(Wilson and Cox, 1983, p. 329) 

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: 

"Ethologists have noted that the males of most mammalian species are thrown into strong Darwinian competition with one another; those that are most successful monopolize an unequal share of female resources, and the others have to make do with various substitute sexual outlets (Wilson, 1981). 

Following this model, we would not expect to find any direct genetic predisposition  toward paedophilia per se ... paedophiles may inherit their submissive nature which in turn makes for difficulties in establishing normal male sexuality . A second stage, involving conditioning and social-learning experiences, would then have to be postulated to account or the focusing upon children as e alternative target."  
(Wilson and Cox, 1983, p. 329) 

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. 

"Our results [show] no striking connection between paedophile preference and either thought disorder or aggressiveness. A few of the paedophiles in our sample may have been bordering on clinically-significant levels of psychoticism, but by no means the majority ." 
(Wilson and Cox, 1983, p. 328) 

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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

(i) those who had committed assault (rape and statutory rape), 

(ii) paedophiles (corrupting the morals of a minor), 

(iii) exhibitionists and 

(iv) homosexuals. 

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: 

"feel unable to compete with other men in efforts to attract adult women because of this felt inferiority. Retaining normal heterosexual aims, they then turned to little girls for affection and sexual gratification." 
(Peters, 1976, p. 409) 

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: 

"The Rorschach [the ink-blot test], like most of the other tests, shows the pedophiles to be significantly more passive than the rapists. It also indicates markedly diminished sensitivity to the needs of others, associated with repression of their own needs for affection and of their sensuous impulses. 
It is likely that this insensitivity permits them to be oblivious to the problems created by their seductive behavior toward their victims, victims who frequently are children to whom they are close and toward whom they consciously maintain feelings of fondness." 
(Peters, 1976, p. 410) 

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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: 

"We believe the high self-ratings made by the pedophiles, exhibitionists and rapists are due to, or at least consistent with, a use of denial as an ego defense mechanism, which was observed clinically in the psychiatric interviews and in the course of group therapy sessions." 
(Peters, 1976, pp. 410-411) 

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:

(1) Social introversion was highest in paedophiles, though not clearly more so than in other sexually deviant groups (Langevin et at., 1978); 

(2) Incest offenders tended to score higher on social introversion than the extra-familial offenders (Panton, 1979); and 

(3) No differences were found in the profiles of various types of offenders, including a group of molesters of 13-year-olds and younger (Quinsey, Arnold and Pruesse, 1980). 

In other words, research using the MMPI provides no clear-cut, strong trends that might help us to understand paedophilia better.

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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: 

"pedophiles may be fundamentally guilt-ridden individuals. Further ... heterosexual pedophiles, in addition to being self-abasing, may inhibit aggression, whereas homosexual pedophiles typically establish mutually dependent relations." , 
(Levin and Stava, 1987, p. 75) 

However , these characteristics might also be produced by the nature of the settings in which such research takes place, usually prison: 

(1) Guilt and the inhibition of aggression might be a consequence of the hostility and derision directed against sex offenders by other prisoners; 

(2) Impression management might encourage sex offenders to present themselves as reformed and sorry for what they had done. 

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.

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