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4. PSYCHODYNAMIC APPROACHES
Psychodynamically based theories of paedophilia are also rarely based on research. Clinical experience is usually their only empirical foundation. Much stems from Freud's (1905/1977} suggestion that
homosexuals in general may have sound personality structures. This did not extend to child molesters -- those who offend against children were seen as aberrations:
This theme was reiterated many years later when Storr (1964) suggested that the paedophile
Freud's account of paedophilia is woefully inadequate; it explains virtually nothing that is known about such offenders. For example, the thesis accounts for few, if any, of the factors discussed by Araji and Finkelhor (1985, 1986). Freud's ideas would explain why any adult in sexual privation would turn to children. Since only some adults are sexual with children the theory is little more than a statement of what paedophiles do.
In a modern psychoanalytic account of paedophilia, Socarides (1991) distinguishes between what he calls paedophiliac behaviour or fantasy and the true obligatory paedophile pervert who must have sexual activity with a child or suffer "intolerable anxiety" (p. 185). The situational offender is by far the more common, according to Socarides, whereas the obligatory offender is relatively rare.
The seductive and affectionate child causes some men to offend against their sexual natures, as do intoxication and privation of sex with other adults. He even goes so far as to suggest an epidemic of paedophile behaviour, similar to epidemics of homosexuality, which occurs when society fails to prohibit sexual license (Socarides, 1988)!
According to him, there are two types of paedophile, differing in terms of the developmental stage at which their deep seated psychological conflicts were fixated. The evidence for this is based entirely on clinical experience, and there is very little to suggest why paedophilia is the chosen psychological defence rather than any other of the possible mechanisms. Socarides concludes his position as being:
It is difficult to know where this leaves us in terms of insight into paedophilia, especially as it holds most child molestation to be the consequence of the child's seductive behaviour, the offender's inebriety and the lack of an alternative means of sexual relief.
Paedophilia as a Perversion
Common sense may suggest that paedophilia is a perversion. Caution is appropriate. Without a clear concept of the term "perversion" there is a danger of attributing too much to what may simply be somewhat unusual.
Scruton (1986) regards perversions as the sexual interest in a less than fully regarded partner. Sexual interest in dead people (necrophilia) is the essence of a perversion since in this the very existence of another person is a threat to sexuality:
Scruton's thesis works best as an identifying thread between activities such as sex with animals, dead bodies and children (Johnson, 1990). None of these can be regarded as complete or full persons.
Johnson describes the theory as matching "a mass of ordinary intuitions" (p. 210) despite remaining a little vague:
It should be noted that masturbation may also be seen as a perversion since it ignores the pleasures and pains of adult interpersonal desire. Not only that, sexual fantasy seems also to possess the major defining feature of a perversion -- not dealing with the other as a complete human being.
Much as it would be useful to know what is quintessentially a sexual perversion, Scruton, in fact, provides little other than a moral position on what proper sexual relationships should be -- that is, with the full person as a full person. In general, notions of deviance have not easily withstood psychological or sociological review.
Sexual matters, since the Kinsey reports (Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin, 1948; Kinsey et al., 1953) have been difficult to define as deviant since it emerged that many socially condemned sexual activities are very common.
The Jungian View
Depth psychology has not contributed extensively to the theoretical treatment of paedophilia, with the exception of one group of Jungian analysts (Kraemer, 1976).
Gordon (1976) suggests that in order to understand paedophilia it is essential to appreciate its healthy basis -- normal paedophilia. By this she means the sort of interaction between adult and child that is mediated and altered by the characteristics of childhood. For example, a large forehead in relation to the length of the face is a stimulus that releases fond and pleasurable feelings towards the child.
In humankind, there is an added dimension to the protection of the young -- the need to preserve the "inner child" in ourselves (qualities such as innocence of perception and curiosity). The loss of the "inner child" creates an inability to readjust to the environment or engage in aesthetic activities such as religious experience and artistic creativity.
Initiation ceremonies and other rituals help to maintain a rigid distinction between adulthood and childhood, and provide the opportunity to emphasize the differences in the ways in which adults and children are regarded. In Western society this has included the definition of childhood as non-sexual.
It is an aspect of perversions that one part of the structure of the personality predominates at the cost of disregarding the rest. Thus, another person may be related to only in part rather than totally -- for their age, their figure or some other partial characteristics:
Perversions come from preoccupations and anxieties related to different aspects of development. In relation to the paedophile, these preoccupations may be with the size of the penis or fears of ridicule by potential adult sexual partners. In the paedophile, there may be a tendency to hold an idealized longing for the purity and innocence of childhood.
Gordon suggests that female paedophilia can be seen in those women who relate effectively only with younger children. One of the signs of this is the replacement of a child with a new baby at regular intervals:
The reason why society has tended to ignore the perversion of such women is that their means of expressing it is socially acceptable. She argues that paedophilia is most easily recognized when it is directed to an external object such as a child; it is less easily seen when it is internally directed towards youthfulness (as in Dorian Gray).
One feature to emerge out of the analysis of paedophiles is the great sense of vulnerability stemming from being the object of an unconscious sexual seduction by one or other or both of the parents. The means of dealing with this is to adopt a persona or fašade of toughness and adulthood; situations which disturb this can produce great feelings of panic. Furthermore, in later reliving the experience, the paedophile may reverse the roles in a sadomasochistic way -- repeating the threatening nature of the childhood experience.
In one case study Gordon writes:
One of the difficulties with this explanation is that it does not explain the overt sexual acts that are the focus of the usual concerns about paedophilia.
On this, Williams (1976) claims that
the horror of ageing is set against the renewing properties of sexuality:
Lambert (1976) takes a similar perspective in recognizing an essential component of development in paedophilia:
The primal scene involves the two patents, the boy, the girl and the unborn
baby. This provides the context for a powerful mix of emotions such as love
and hate, creativity, violence and jealousy. When the dynamics of the family become stultifying or even destructive then this can dominate the whole
A Psychiatric View
The degree of psychological disturbance in the offender may be related to the age of his victim (Glasser, 1989). The younger the victim, the greater the psychological disturbance. He also has negative feelings towards adult sexuality. These are feelings of fear or condemnation or a mixture of both. There is a secondary paedophilia which is the consequence of other pathologies such as schizophrenia, physical disorders of the brain and conditions in which the personality disintegrates, leading to a range of perverse behaviours. Primary paedophilia provides a certain amount of integration of the paedophile's ego and a consequent stability of his personality.
Glasser suggests that there are two broad classes of primary paedophiles, the invariant and pseudo-neurotics. The two types may be characterized as follows:
This boils down to the pseudo-neurotic paedophile being fully perverted sexually towards children. Surface impressions have to be set aside, otherwise one would see these men as fairly normal adults pushed to paedophilia by circumstance. Quite clearly there are profound differences here from the fixated and regressed typology frequently mentioned, and discussed earlier. The pseudo-neurotic paedophile is truly eroticized towards children and not suffering from a regression in any meaningful sense.
For Glasser, paedophilia is one of a group of perversions that share a "core complex" of two major components:
He illustrates this with the case of a young Spanish man whose paedophiliac activities involved 7- to 11-year-old boys:
Or, elsewhere, Glasser (1988) refers to Karpman's (1950) case description of a paedophile's early experience of a woman neighbour's paedophiliac approach to him. When he was seven years old, she told him to undress while she did also, revealing what he describes as the hairiest vagina he had ever seen. She lay with him on top of her,
when he felt that he "was going to be swallowed up within this mass of hideous hair".
Such strong feelings of danger in terms of relationships with other adults can be dealt with either by narcissistic withdrawal into himself bringing about "profound isolation" and feelings of worthlessness or by destroying this threatening, dangerous individual.
The problem in the latter case is that the threatening person in his early life is his mother -- the very person from whom the child seeks gratification. The outcome of all of this is that the pervert either converts this aggression sexually into sadism or into masochism where narcissistic withdrawal had taken place.
The emotional focus of a paedophile's relationships with others is essentially on himself. In the case of the invariant paedophile, apart from family and one or two others, people are present as shadowy figures. They become significant only if they meet his needs. The pseudo-neurotic type accounts for the individuality of others rather better but in an exploitative manner:
There is an important question -- how a paedophile can offend against children when the whole of society, including criminals, condemns such activities.
Glasser's explanation is that societal standards (the superego) do not become integrated into the individual's personality because of the strong rejection he felt for parents and other authority figures who treated him badly in childhood. In paedophiliac activities, the protest against this is pursued.
Nevertheless, there is inevitably a struggle between the individual's internal psychological needs and societal pressures (the superego) which results in the self-deception characteristic of the paedophile. A directive or proscriptive therapist readily produces a sadomasochistic relationship during treatment as a consequence.