Pedophilia, hebephilia, and the DSM-V

Archives of Sexual Behavior

Blanchard, Ray, Lykins Amy D., Wherrett Diane, Kuban Michael E., Cantor James M., Blak Thomas, et al.
Publication LanguageEng
Refereed DesignationRefereed


The term pedophilia denotes the erotic preference for prepubescent children. The term hebephilia has been proposed to denote the erotic preference for pubescent children (roughly, ages 11 or 12–14), but it has not become widely used.

The present study sought to validate the concept of hebephilia by examining the agreement between self-reported sexual interests and objectively recorded penile responses in the laboratory.

The participants were 881 men who were referred for clinical assessment because of paraphilic, criminal, or otherwise problematic sexual behavior.

Within-group comparisons showed that men who verbally reported maximum sexual attraction to pubescent children had greater penile responses to depictions of pubescent children than to depictions of younger or older persons.

Between-groups comparisons showed that penile responding distinguished such men from those who reported maximum attraction to prepubescent children and from those who reported maximum attraction to fully grown persons.

These results indicated that hebephilia exists as a discriminable erotic age-preference.

The authors recommend various ways in which the DSM might be altered to accommodate the present findings.

One possibility would be to replace the diagnosis of Pedophilia with Pedo-hebephilia and allow the clinician to specify one of three subtypes:

  • Sexually Attracted to Children Younger than 11 (Pedophilic Type),
  • Sexually Attracted to Children Age 11–14 (Hebephilic Type), or
  •  Sexually Attracted to Both (Pedohebephilic Type).

We further recommend that the DSM-V encourage users to record the typical age of children who most attract the patient sexually as well as the gender of children who most attract the patient sexually.