Stigmatization of People with Pedophilia: Two Comparative Surveys

Arch Sex Behav

Jahnke, Sara, Imhoff Roland, & Hoyer Juergen
Issue20 June 2014


Despite productive research on stigma and its impact on people's lives in the past 20 years, stigmatization of people with pedophilia has received little attention. We conducted two surveys estimating public stigma and determining predictors of social distance from this group. 

In both studies, pedophilia was defined as a ''dominant sexual interest in children.'' The survey was comprised of items measuring agreement with stereotypes, emotions, and social distance (among others). Responses were compared with identical items referring to 

either people who abuse alcohol (Study 1), sexual sadists 
or people with antisocial tendencies (Study 2). 

Study 1 was conducted in two German cities (N = 854) and Study 2 sampled 201 English-speaking online participants. 

Both studies revealed that nearly all reactions to people with pedophilia were more negative than those to the other groups, including social distance. 

Fourteen percent (Study 1) and 28 % (Study 2) of the participants agreed that people with pedophilia should better be dead, even if they never had committed criminal acts. The strongest predictors of social distance towards people with pedophilia were affective reactions to this group (anger and, inversely, associated, pity) and the political attitude of right-wing authoritarianism (Study 1). 

Results strongly indicate that people with pedophilia are a stigmatized group who risk being the target of fierce discrimination. We discuss this particular form of stigmatization with respect to social isolation of persons with pedophilia and indirect negative consequences for child abuse prevention.


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