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I       Introduction

  Most people react with repugnance to the idea of adults obtaining sexual gratification from children. The degree of distaste that this thought engenders is often in the range of that evoked by the concepts of child-beating or even child murder. Indeed, these different forms of child abuse may be viewed by the general public as manifestations of the same phenomenon, and ‘high status’ criminals (such as armed robbers) in prisons are known to vent their moral indignation with savage beatings directed indiscriminately against child murderers and tender-minded paedophiles.

It is not quite clear why this should be so. Perhaps we fear that the man who is perverted enough to use children for his sexual pleasure is capable of anything, including murdering his victim in order to conceal his crime of molestation. (Women are hardly ever prosecuted for sexual interference with children, either because they seldom engage in it or because female paedophilia is viewed by society as less threatening or harmful to the child.) There may be also an element of scapegoating in our reaction to the paedophile. Priestley (1980) has argued that the paedophile serves for modern society the same function that the ‘witch’ served in medieval society - an opportunity to purge ourselves of guilt by projecting our own unacceptable impulses onto some weaker creature before sacrificing it in expiation to the highest imaginable authorities. Whether or not this particular psycho-dynamic explanation is entertained as feasible, there does seem to be something irrational in the extent of our hostility towards the unfortunate paedophile. The combined power of our parental, protective instincts and our general distaste for sexual perversion may be sufficient to explain the strength of our reaction; then again perhaps not.

The effect of this very severe social condemnation has been to drive the phenomenon so far underground that the only empirical studies of men with paedophilic inclinations have come from prison or clinic populations. This means that we have so far only been able to study ‘unsuccessful’ paedophiles, those who have been caught and convicted for transgressing the law and those who have responded either to personal distress or legal pressure to seek medical treatment for their condition. Subjects recruited from either source are bound to provide distorted information. Those arriving through legal channels would be motivated to minimise estimates of previous and probable future consummatory behaviour for fear of making things worse for themselves, and those seen at psychiatric clinics are likely to be more distressed and psychologically ill than those who have not been referred for treatment.

What is needed, ideally, is access to a sample of paedophiles who are ‘at large’ within the community, a group who have not necessarily caught the attention of either legal or medical authorities. The opportunity to study such a sample occurred with the formation of a self-help group for paedophiles called the ‘Paedophile Information Exchange’ (PIE). Based in London, the aim of this organisation was to offset the guilt and isolation of people with paedophile tendencies by putting them in contact with one another and discussing their mutual problems through a newsletter, which was entitled Magpie. Although membership was theoretically open to women as well as men, in practice hardly any women availed themselves of the facility.

The growth of PIE was watched with horror by press, public and police for several years, until a prosecution was brought against the leaders of the organisation for alleged conspiracy to corrupt public morals’. In particular, they were charged with printing contact advertisements in Magpie which were calculated to promote indecent acts between adults and children. In 1981 the former PIE chairperson, Tom O’Carroll, who had previously been dismissed from his post as Press Officer to the Open University, was convicted on the charge and sentenced to two years in prison. Since then, P1 E ‘s activities have been rather curtailed and muted, so it is fortunate that our survey of P I E members was conducted in their heyday of 1978-9.     


We approached Mr O’Carroll in 1978 with a request to study the P I E membership, giving the usual assurances that results would be used only for scientific purposes. At that time, O’Carroll and his organisation were under heavy attack from the press, so they were naturally somewhat wary of our interest. A meeting was held with the PIE leadership at which our survey instruments were vetted and, after approval, these were distributed to PIE members in the course of their regular mailing.

One of the questionnaires used was the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (EPQ; Eysenck and Eysenck, 1975), which measures three major factors of personality — extraversion versus introversion, neuroticism and psychoticism (as well as having a built-in ‘Lie Scale’ to assess the degree of dissimulation on the questionnaire). For copyright reasons it is not possible to reproduce the whole of the EPQ but some sample items; representing each of the three main factors are shown in Table 1.


  Examples of the type of item in the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire

Are you a very talkative person?

Would you enjoy a lively party?

Do you like plenty of excitement going on around you?

Do you often do things on the spur of the moment?

Are you worried by awful things that might happen?

Do you suffer from ‘nerves’?

Are you often tired and listless for no good reason?

Would you describe yourself as ‘moody’?

Would you take drugs that have strange effects on you? Do you think insurance schemes are a waste of time?

Did you tend to dislike your parents?

Do you sometimes tease animals?

NOTE: ‘Yes’ answers would tend to be obtained to the first 4 items by the extravert, to the second 4 by the neurotic (emotional) person, and to the last 4 by the person high on psychoticism (tough-mindedness).

The second questionnaire was a tailor-made instrument called the Paedophile Questionnaire, which is shown in Table 2. This was designed to provide more detailed information concerning the sexual preferences and behaviour of subjects, as well as their social background and feelings about their own condition. Although our reasons for asking some of these questions were scrutinised by the PIE leadership, the questionnaire was finally accepted by them in very much the same form that we had initially drafted.  


Paedophile Questionnaire  

1            Do you like (a) boys (b) girls (c) both boys and girls? (please underline one).  

2            At what age are they most attractive to you? (please give to nearest year)  

3            What is the range of ages that you find attractive?       from age  ...  to age ...

4            What is it about children that attracts you?  

5            How do you view the idea of sex with adults?  

6                         What were your parents like, and how did you get on with them  
(a)    Your mother  
  (b)  Your father  

7            What was their attitude towards sex?  

8            Describe the earliest sexual experience you can remember.  

9            What kinds of relationships have you had with children?  

10                    Do you have fantasies concerning relationships with children? If so, what kind  
    and how often?  

11                    What would you like to do with children if legal restrictions were entirely  

12                    How do you feel about your preference for children? Are you puzzled, happy,  
    disturbed, or what?  

13                    Have you ever sought professional advice or treatment? If so, from what kind of  
    person or institution?  

14                    Is there anything else you wish to say about your paedophile interests or  

15                    Would you be willing to be interviewed in person by this researcher on the  
    understanding that confidentiality would be maintained? If so, please give a  
    contact address or phone number.             


A third questionnaire that we had hoped to use was the Sex Fantasy Questionnaire (Wilson, 1978), but this was rejected by the PIE leadership as likely to produce results that could easily be misconstrued to the detriment of their members’ public image. This questionnaire investigates the frequency with which a wide variety of sexual practices, including many that are sado-masochistic and otherwise deviant, are engaged in and fantasised about. The fear was that the admission of sadistic fantasies on the part of the paedophiles would be held as evidence that they would like to hurt children in reality. The open question concerning sexual fantasies that appears in the Paedophile Questionnaire was, however, found to be acceptable, because it was seen as less ‘leading’ in format.

The two questionnaires that were found acceptable to the P1 E leaders were mailed to the entire membership (said to number about 180, although some of these are resident overseas) along with the following letter:

Note to PIE members

  I would be grateful if you would help in a study of personality and sexual preferences by filling out the attached questionnaires. Th first is a standard questionnaire which is being used with a variety o different groups of people. Therefore, many of the questions ma’ seem inappropriate to you as paedophiles. However, please fil them out as best you can and don’t worry about the implications o any individual item - we will be looking at overall patterns am comparisons. The second questionnaire is tailored specifically fo your group. If you would prefer not to answer a particular question just leave it blank, but you may remain anonymous, and in an’ case, the answers will be used for research purposes only.

Thank you for any help you are prepared to give.  

Glenn Wilson Ph.D  Lecturer in Psychology,  University of London

    In addition to this letter, Mr O’Carroll added a note of his own endorsing the aims and sincerity of the research an encouraging his members to co-operate. In all, 77 sets of questionnaires were returned to us using the stamped, addressed envelopes that we supplied in the mailed material. This, we estimated, would represent about half of the PIE members who received the questionnaires. One or two others refused to be constrained by the particular items in the questionnaires and instead wrote detailed letters describing their feelings and experiences informally; these were of course not included in the empirical analyses, though some of the more interesting quotations are reported.

The last item on the Paedophile Questionnaire was an invitation to PIE members to make themselves available for personal interview so that the various issues could be discussed in greater depth. The object of this was partly to check on the validity of the questionnaire responses by seeing how well information gathered on a face-to-face basis would correspond with that obtained by questionnaire. Also, we thought it would be profitable to round out the quantitative data with a few fuller case studies. About one-third of the 77 PIE  members who returned questionnaires (all of whom were male) indicated a willingness to be interviewed in person and provided contact information to this end. Of these, a selection who lived within easy travelling distance of London were interviewed by Dr Cox. Summaries of these interviews are given in the last section of the book.

In order to preserve confidentiality, the tapes of the interviews were transcribed and then wiped. Likewise, the questionnaires were coded and punched onto computer cards and the more interesting quotations transcribed into anonymous form for use as illustrative material.

We have mentioned certain biases that would be expected to appear in data derived from paedophiles who are incarcerated or undergoing treatment for their condition, but we should also admit the possibility of a different kind of bias that might colour our results. Apart from its aim of giving comfort and support to otherwise friendless paedophiles, PIE also proselytises the cause; that is, it campaigns for greater social and legal acceptance of the paedophile preference. There is, therefore, a danger that some PIE members might have seen in our research an opportunity for transmitting a favourable image of paedophilia to the scientific community. This does not necessarily imply deliberate distortion, for many P I E members do see genuinely to believe that, if not actually virtuous, their orientation is misjudged by an unthinking society, so whether not they are dismissed as rationalisations, these positive attitudes are truly held. Nevertheless, it is fair to concede the possibility that some subjects were motivated to paint themselves, and their preference, in an exaggeratedly favourable light. We shall discuss the extent to which this might have occurred in the analysis of results that follows. It seems that all sources of data in this field will have their biases; the possible advantage of this study is that the particular bias that it may incorporate is different from that of most previous investigations.

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