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III   Personality and Mental Health

We now proceed to look at the results obtained with the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire. This enables us to investigate the temperamental characteristics of the paedophiles relative to normal men and other groups of men with unusual preferences, and to examine the question of the extent to which they might be characterised as mentally disturbed in general. In addition, we shall consider the way in which variations in personality within the PIE members relate to other aspects of their lifestyle and sexual behaviour.

 Scores on the major personality dimensions

 As mentioned in Chapter I, the EPQ is scored for three main axes of personality (extraversion (E), neuroticism (N) and psychoticism (P)) and a Lie Scale (L) which indicates the extent to which dissimulation (‘faking good’) has occurred. The mean scores for the paedophile group on these major personality dimensions are shown in Table 24.  


 Means (and S.D.s) of paedophile and control groups on E PQ personality scales

                                                               Paedophiles                 Controls*

                                                                (N = 77)                   (N = 404)


Psychoticism                                              4.48 (3.17)                 3.27(2.75)

Extraversion                                              9.66 (5.21)               12.85(4.73)

Neuroticism                                              11.45 (5.48)               9.33(5.18)

Lie Scale                                                    7.49 (4.13)               7.53(4.51)

*Males aged 30-40,from EPQ Manual             


The paedophiles emerge as distinctly introverted relative to controls. In fact, the mean score of 9.66 obtained by the PIE members on the E Scale is lower than that given for all 100 or so occupational categories listed in the EPQ Manual. Interestingly, though, this degree of introversion manifested by the paedophiles is fairly well equivalent to that shown by transvestites, transsexuals and masochists - other deviant male groups who tend to be fairly submissive in personality and sexual style (Gosselin and Wilson, 1980). As with these other groups, the same difficulty in untangling cause and effect applies. We cannot tell whether paedophiles gravitate towards children because, being highly introverted, they find the company of children less threatening than that of adults, or whether the social withdrawal implied by their introversion is a result of the isolation engendered by their preference (i.e. awareness of the social disapproval and hostility that it evokes.) All we can say at present is that paedophiles as a group, even those that join a club to gain social support for their preference rather than seeking to expunge it with medical and psychological treatments, tend to be quite introverted.

The psychoticism score of the paedophiles is slightly elevated compared with controls, but not drastically so, and certainly not to the extent that they could be called pathological as a group. There are several occupational groups listed in the Manual that have P scores of approximately the same order, including actors, apprentices, architects, doctors, drivers, students and welfare officers, none of which could be regarded as clinically psychotic as a whole. Thus, there is no reason on the basis of these results to suppose that men with paedophile sexual preferences are  necessarily marked by any exceptional degree of thought disorder.

The fact that the standard deviation for P scores is slightly higher for the paedophile group than for controls suggests the possibility that a small subset of PIE members might show clinical levels of psychoticism. This, indeed, appeared to be the case. Examination of individual scores revealed a strongly skewed distribution and a slight tendency towards bimodality, with eleven subjects scoring 9 or more on the P scale (Figure 3). Some of these individuals did appear to be particularly confused and distressed on the basis of a reading of their answers to the Paedophile Questionnaire. However, there was no overall tendency for the high P scorers within the sample to have sought medical help more than low P scorers.

The neuroticism scores of the paedophiles are again slightly higher than controls but not to an extent that would justify describing them as clinically abnormal. Among groups of men with similar N scores according to the Manual are actors, apprentices, machinists and students, and a great many of the female groups given in the Manual show N scores that are higher than these male paedophiles. This time, however, there was a tendency (albeit small) for those paedophiles who were highest on neuroticism to be more likely to have sought psychiatric help, whether in connection with their paedophilia or for some other reason (the correlation being .22, which is significant at the .05 level of confidence).

Perhaps the most striking thing about these results is how normal the paedophiles appear to be according to their scores on these major personality dimensions - particularly the two that are most clinically relevant (N and P). The only marked characteristic of the P1 E members with respect to these major dimensions is their tendency to introversion, and this in itself is not usually thought of as pathological. Furthermore, the fact that the Lie Scale scores of the paedophiles are not distinguish-able from those of controls would suggest that, overall, they were not bent on creating an artificially favourable impression on the questionnaire, but were giving a honest and accurate self-report. 



Personality related to other variables

 When personality traits were investigated in relation to various other measures within the sample of paedophiles, a number of interesting relationships emerged (Table 25). Subjects scoring high on the psychoticism scale showed a tendency to be more exclusively paedophile in their preferences; that is, less capable of establishing relationships or obtaining sexual satisfaction from adult partners (r = —.22, p <.05). There was also a tendency for high P paedophiles to identify younger children as ideal sex targets, although this relationship (r = —.21) only just reaches statistical significance with this sample size. A substantial relationship between P scores and Lie Scale scores within this sample, such that low L scorers yielded higher Ps (r = — .46, p K .01), raises the possibility that high P scorers were more likely to admit an exclusive interest in young children because of their open and forthright responses to the questionnaire. (By corollary, the low P scorers may have been reluctant to report an exclusive interest in young children because they were more concerned to present themselves in a favourable light.)

Subjects scoring high on the extraversion scale were more likely to express a prime interest in children of an older age (r = .22) and were apparently better able to tolerate the idea of sex with adult partners (r = .28, p K .01). These relationships are consistent with the idea that the ‘perfect paedophile’ (i.e. one who is exclusively attracted to very young children) is inclined to be highly introverted. High E subjects within this group were also less likely to be neurotic (r = — .26).

Paedophiles who scored high on the neuroticism scale were less happy about their condition than low N scorers (r = —.41) and more likely to have sought treatment (r = .22). These relationships are very much what would have been expected on the basis of what is known about the N scale. Neurotic people have more anxieties and difficulties of every kind and are therefore more likely to avail themselves of medical and psychiatric services. The small correlation between N and introversion mentioned above is also consistent with findings from the general population (Eysenck and Eysenck, 1975).

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 Correlations between behavioural and personality variables  
(N = 77)




Child age

Adult sex

Sex with children

Positive feelings

Treatment (thought)





Age of subject











Preferred sex of target (heterosexuality)











Preferred  age of target











Ability to have sex with adults (non-exclusivity)











Sexual involvement with children











Feelings about own preference











Treatment (thought)












































*          p<.05  
**        p<.0l


Another notable relationship in Table 25 is the tendency for heterosexual (girl-oriented) paedophiles to prefer their partners younger than the age that is considered ideal by homosexual paedophiles (r = — .46). This was also noted in the graph of preferred partner ages given in the previous chapter. There is also a tendency for heterosexual paedophiles to relate better to adults as sex targets (r = .33) than do homosexual paedophiles. Perhaps this is because the heterosexuals do not experience the same ‘turn-off’ that seems, in the eyes of homosexual paedophiles, to accompany the striking changes that occur to boys as they pass puberty (e.g. the broken voice, hairiness, muscle development and increased potential for aggressiveness).

Responses to selected EP Q items

In the previous studies of sexually deviant groups by Gosselin and Wilson (1980) it was found useful to analyse separately some of the individual E P Q items that were thought to have special theoretical significance. This has been done for the same selected items that were used in the previous study in Table 26.  


  Response of paedophile and control groups to selected items from the EPQ


Theoretical factors


Percentage ‘yes’ responses


Control males


‘Do you tend to keep in the background on social occasions?’




‘Are your feelings easily hirt?’




‘Do you often feel lonely?’




‘Have you ever wished you were dead?’




‘Are you often troubled by feelings of guilt?’




‘Do good manners and cleanliness matter much to you?’



Concern with looks

‘Do you worry a lot about your looks’?



Sense of humour

‘De you like telling jokes and funny stories to your friends?’



Relationship with mother

‘Is (was) your mother a good woman?’




  Note: Male controls are the same as those used by Gosselin and Wilson (1980) and are slightly older than the paedophiles on average.

  Shyness and sensitivity are two aspects of introversion which might seem basic to the problems of paedophiles. If they are unable to approach adults as potential sex partners because they lack the necessary social skills and confidence, this might partly explain their preference for children, and it would be expected to show up on the two EPQ items quoted above. In fact, a greater proportion of the paedophiles do admit to social difficulties of these kinds than do controls, although as we have noted, we cannot be certain of the direction of cause and effect. The next two items refer to loneliness and depression

respectively, and here there is even more striking evidence of social difficulty and distress. About twice as many paedophiles as controls report that they ‘often feel lonely’, and 43 per cent of paedophiles admit to suicidal feelings as against 18 per cent of control men. This suggests a fair degree of unhappiness amongst paedophiles, but again, it may be in large part a result of the unfavourable reception accorded to them by society rather than being symptomatic of inherent neuroticism.

The item concerning guilt does not significantly differentiate paedophiles from controls. Presumably this is because a proportion of PIE members actually claim pride in their ‘capacity to love children properly’, which they maintain is not shared by the adult population at large. Others do feel a measure of guilt (however socially induced) and so the two effects cancel each other out. Obsessionality, as indicated by this particular item from the EPQ does not seem to be characteristic of the paedophiles; in fact, the proportion endorsing this item is lower than that for controls.

Concern for looks was investigated in relation to the social difficulty hypothesis, the possibility being that some men might adopt deviant sexual outlets because they are uncertain about their attractiveness to women. However, as with other deviant males studied by Gosselin and Wilson, the paedophile group actually appear as less concerned about their looks than normal men. While it is not easy to interpret this finding, it might suggest that paedophile men depend less upon their physical attractiveness to interest children than normal men do in seeking adult female partners. If children are willing to allow sex play at all, it is unlikely to be on the basis of finding the adult concerned physically attractive.

Also relevant to social communication difficulty and general happiness is sense of humour. Male sex deviates of many kinds have emerged as less able to share a joke with their friends, and the paedophiles are no exception to this rule. It is not clear whether this reflects a deficient sense of humour or a lack of friends with whom to share a joke, but it does confirm that our paedophiles are to some extent sad and isolated individuals. This appears to be so despite the fact that these particular paedophiles have taken the positive step of seeking out social support through joining PIE.

Finally, the item concerning the way in which the subject perceives his mother, reveals that a smaller proportion of paedophiles than controls report that their mother is (or was) a ‘good woman’. This again is consistent with findings for other groups of male deviates and it supports the conclusion in the previous chapter that paedophiles are more likely than normal men to have had difficulties in relating to their parents.

In summary, these data round out the finding that, as a group, the paedophiles tend to experience some difficulties with respect to social relationships, and perhaps as a secondary effect of this are more susceptible to loneliness and depression. However, they do not seem to be abnormally troubled by guilt feelings, nor do they manifest any other symptoms of neurosis or psychosis to an exceptional degree. They may be sad, lonely and lacking in humour, but they cannot be said as a group to be generally thought-disordered.  


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