Chapter 5 - Etiology of Pedophilia

Here below: (1) Summary, (2) A Quote


As this chapter shows, there are many major gaps in our understanding of
pedophilia and hebephilia. By necessity, this chapter on etiology of pedophilia is
more speculative than the previous chapter on the origins of sexual offending
involving children. A major puzzle is how to explain pedophilia from a Darwinian
perspective, because persons with pedophilia have fewer sexual contacts with
sexually mature partners and, by definition, they are interested in nonfertile
children. How could a condition that appears to be maladaptive be maintained in
the general population? Even a small fitness disadvantage should cause a trait to
disappear, without a counteracting effect that can maintain pedophilia at a low
frequency in the population.

Despite the many unanswered questions about the etiology of pedophilia, progress
has been made. It is particularly gratifying that some of the hypotheses discussed in
the first edition have been empirically tested, such as the recent studies of minor
physical anomalies and other indicators of prenatal causes. For the other hypotheses,
there are some good thesis and project ideas here, reader!

For example, the nature of the association between childhood sexual abuse and
sexual offending against children or pedophilia still needs to be better understood.
Cross-sectional studies, not all of which rely on self-report, have found childhood
sexual abuse specifically predicts the onset or persistence of sexual offending, but
longitudinal studies have not (…).

It is possible that childhood sexual abuse has an indirect effect through perturbations of psychosexual development that are not readily detected by following abused and non-abused children over time and looking at criminal records. Several studies suggest childhood sexual abuse is associated with an earlier onset of masturbation, pornography use, fantasies, and activity, which in turn may increase the risk of sexual offending through a sexual preoccupation path or simply greater opportunity (…).

Consistent with this idea, Kingston, Graham, and Knight (Z017) found that adverse
childhood experiences were linked to hypersexuality in identified male sex offenders, 60% of whom had offended against children. Longitudinal studies involving repeat interviews and self-report measures, along with collateral observations, are expensive and difficult but they would be invaluable.

On another front, the understanding of the functional and structural networks
underlying pedophilia is starting to cohere. However, more studies are needed with
larger samples, unbiased analyses, and preferably both non-sexually offending and
non-offending controls (…).

Theoretical explanations for pedophilia are not mutually exclusive. Different causal
pathways may lead to pedophilia (equifinality) creating multiple forms of pedophilia rather than a single phenotype.

This may explain some of the apparent heterogeneity in findings, including group
differences, predictive associations, and estimates of heritability. A good etiological
theory will need to incorporate this complexity. Even if all pedophilia reflected
neurodevelopmental perturbations — which is unlikely to be the case, as not all
pedophilic offenders who have been scanned or tested show brain differences or
score low in IQ and other cognitive measures — those perturbations occur in
different ways.

An analogy can be drawn to other mental disorders, such as depression or
schizophrenia, for which researchers increasingly recognize that different causal
pathways lead to these conditions, and assessment and intervention strategies are
more effective when they are fitted to the specific phenotype.

Many of the hypotheses discussed in this chapter are quite speculative, but they
demonstrate how a Darwinian perspective can help produce novel and testable
ideas. Pedophilia, and other chronophilias involving persons who are not sexually
mature, are a major Darwinian puzzle.

Another major puzzle is the understanding of incest, that is, sexual offenses
involving close genetic relatives. In the next chapter, I focus specifically on sexual
offenses against close, genetically related children, especially one’s own daughter.
I discuss ultimate explanations for incest, based on inclusive fitness and other
Darwinian considerations, with the hope that this leads to a more rigorous
understanding of proximate explanations for incest that might include spousal
relationship conflict, family dysfunction, atypical sexual interests, and antisociality.

A Quote from Chapter 5

Page 114
The fact that I have argued that pedophilia can be viewed as akin to a sexual
orientation regarding age, does not disqualify considering is also as a mental disorder.