Born as a pedophile?

Gieles, Frans
Type of WorkComment on a research report

A critical comment on

Minor Physical Anomalies as a Window into the Prenatal Origins of Pedophilia”, by Fazio, Rachel L., Dyshniku Fiona, Murray Michelle E., Lykins Amy D., & Cantor James M.; Archives of Sexual Behavior;  Jun 10 2015    [Link to be added after publication]

By Frans E J Gieles, PhD *

 *  The author guides since thirty years individuals and self-help groups for people with pedophilic feelings in the Netherlands.


The authors of this article report a research project. They have selected eighteen physical anomalies that are supposed to be developed in an early stage in utero. They have examined if, and which of these anomalies were present in a sample of 140 people convicted for illegal sexual acts with children, teenagers or adults, in this study called “pedophiles”, “hebephiles” and “teleiophiles” respectively, according to their sexual orientation, their attraction to children, adolecents or adults. 

 The anomalies are split into two groups: “Craniofacial” and “Peripheral” anomalies, according to the place of the body they appear. It appeared that the first group of anomalies, at least partly, correlated positively with “pedophiles”, less with "ebephiles" and "teleiophiles", while the second group of anomalies correlated negatively with the same. Thus, they constructed a ‘ratio’ or an index,  a figure between -1 and +1, indicating the relative presence of the first and the absence of the second group of anomalies. This ratio correlated with the group “pedophiles” and somewhat less with the group “hebephiles”, but also partly with the group “teleiophiles”.

 Thus, say the authors, because these anomalies exist since an early stage in utero, and because that correlation, also ‘pedophilia’, and may be any sexual orientation, must be developed in that early stage in utero.


 Concepts and categories

 The central concept ‘pedophilia’ “refers to the sexual attraction to children who are prepubescent”, thus to “attraction”, which is a feeling, not a sexual act. However, in the research part of the article, the whole sample of ‘pedophiles’ consists of people who are convicted for pedo-sexual acts.

Not every person that commits a pedo-sexual act, has pedophile feelings, and surely not every person with pedophile feelings commit such acts. The far majority of them does not, and even does not want to do that.

The authors mention this in the text just below this definition. They select the sub-category of ‘child molesters’ for their research. Nevertheless, in all text below this line, they use the concept ‘pedophilia’ as equal or even identical to ‘child molester’.

The concept ‘pedophilia’ may not be used for people who commit pedo-sexual acts, here named “child molesters”. Also, if one concludes to specific properties of people who have committed pedo-sexual acts, those properties may not be attributed to ‘the pedophiles’ in general. This is an extrapolation that is not allowed in a scientific report.

 The same holds for “hebephilia” and “teleiophilia” in this report.

 The sample

 The sample used by the researchers is far from at random. Al respondents are convicted and have undergone  a kind of therapy – and are Whites. Thus, the conclusions may not be extrapolated to ‘the pedophiles’ in general.

The sample exists of 140 people. This is far too few to allow broad conclusions.

 The control group

 The control group are teleiophilic adults, who also have been convicted for illegal sexual acts, thus also far from at random, and a too low number. The authors acknowledge this in the tail of their report. Nevertheless, before that tail, they have drawn conclusions about ‘the pedophiles’ and ‘the hebephiles’.

 The correlations

As the tables show us, several of the properties, here anomalies, are found in the subgroup ‘pedophiles’ as well in the two other subgroups in nearly the same percentages. E.g. the asymmetry and the position of the ears in Table 1. Thus, these – and other – properties do not differentiate between the three subgroups. These properties might refer to what is common for the three groups, a conviction, thus to characteristics as ‘low self-control’, maybe also to those parts of the brain that rule the self-control, "anti-social features", say the authors. It is not allowed to conclude that those properties are characteristic for one of the three subgroups, and surely not to conclude that they are characteristic for ‘the pedophiles’.

 The data that are compared

 Two very different groups of data are gathered and compared in this project:

  • (a) physical properties, here anomalies, that are supposed to date from a very early stage in the uterus, and
  • (b) acts, committed is the phase of adulthood – acts that here are supposed to be caused by the mentioned “feelings of attraction”.

 Comment 1: Physical properties and acts an feelings are two too different phenomena to be compared.

Comment 2: Properties of a human, dating from the uterus and acts and feelings during adulthood has a too great time gap between them to be compared.

 The working factors

If one wants to study the working causal factors that provoke illegal sexual acts during adulthood, one cannot reduce these factors to those in working utero. One has to search for those factors during the whole time between the uterus and adulthood: growing up, being educated, having lived in a family, a society and a certain period (with its specific laws, differing by state and period), and more. In this sample, also the juridical process and the period and kind of treatment undergone has also to be studied as possible factors. None of those mass of factors is even mentioned in the report.

 The main reasoning

 The main reasoning or argument has the next steps:

  • (a)   Specific physical anomalies are found to date from the early stage in utero.
  • (b)   Some of those anomalies, specifically the used Anomaly Distribution Index ADI, correlates with “pedophilia”.
  • (c)    Thus, “pedophilia” must also date from the early stage in utero.

 Comment on (b): No: only with having done illegal (pedo-)sexual acts during adulthood, within a very specific, far from at random and small sample correlate. This is not the same as correlating with “pedophilia” in general.

Comment 1 on (c): The specific acts, done within adulthood, and surely “pedophilia” in general, may have far more origins, sources or causes, static as well as dynamic working factors, than what has happened in utero.

Comment 2 on (c): Thus, this conclusion is logically not allowed.

What can be started in the early brains?

Biology learns us that an embryo starts its life … as a girl, i.e. with female hormones. In utero, also male hormones are formed. Depending of the DNA codes, the guides for the embryo, a girl will develop only a few male hormones – more or less – and maintain her female hormones. A boy will have a period of de-feminizing, in which the female hormones disappear – more or less – and the male hormones are formed – more or less. So there you are, young baby, as a boy (with still some female hormones) or as a girl (with still some male hormones).

 Male hormones are supposed to call up male behavior; female hormones incite female behavior. The latter is usually seen as more sensitive and caring, especially for the young offspring, while the first is usually seen as inciting the protection of his family and its territory. Both are healthy for the offspring, thus for the survival of the human race.

So, some boys are born with a quite sensitive and caring nature. Thus, some men in every community are quite sensitive and caring for the offspring. They even may be attracted to the young human, which feeling also may be associated with loving and even sexual desires. They feel love to children – in Greek language: they have pedophilic feelings. This feeling can take several expressions during life.

 Thus, certain feelings may originate from birth or earlier – but acts never can be predicted, because the baby grows up within a family, within a society; the baby develops him- of herself  with the help of the adults he meets in a long period of his or her life, onto an adult who is able to control him- or herself, to choose his acts motivated by reasons, and to be responsible for his or her acts.

 What is given at birth, are possibilities and inclinations – not acts, not behavior. A baby may have a talent for music and an inclination to music or arts in general. Between that baby and the famous violist or poet, there is a very long way to go. Lots of chances, influences – and choices – will be on his or her way. No one can predict his adult acts as a violist.

In contrast, this study will argument that acts during adulthood are caused and thus can be predicted by physical origins in the very young brains.

 The behavioristic model

The model underlying this research project, has the characteristic of the classic behavioral model and the modern bio-neurological model.

The first model believes that a human shows us acts, including also feelings, thoughts and beliefs, that are all captured under the concept ‘behavior’. Behavior, in its turn, is caused by working factors.

The second model believes that many – if not most or even all – working factors are located in the brain and work more or less automatically. This model does not believe in a free will of the human being.

The combined model believes that a human shows behavior, caused by factors, mostly or all located in the brain and working automatically. The human has no free will. Thus, the human is not seen as a being showing (conscious) acts, motivated by reasons, beliefs, feelings and aims, choosing his acts, thus being responsible for his or her acts.

In this study, the working factor or factors studied are laying deep in the brain, dating even from a very early stage in utero – thus: laying beyond the human responsibility.

The judges, however, did not follow this model. They have convicted the people from this sample because of their acts, believing that those people are responsible for their acts, thus that those acts have been chosen and not automatically have been caused by factors.Society accepts this way of thinking.

 I even doubt if the researchers themselves believe that their acts, doing this research, writing this report, are automatically caused by factors, let alone by factors lying in the deep brain. I suppose that they see themselves as human beings, choosing their acts, based on motives, reasons and aims, and accepting responsibility for their acts.


 People with pedophilic feelings …

… might say now: ‘I am born (created) as such. Ah! Thus I have no responsibility for my feelings’, or add to it: ‘thus also not for my behavior! ‘

 This is not correct. This study neglects

  •  (a) the long time between the uterus and adulthood, and thus the mass of influences undergone in that long  period; moreover:
  • (b) the fact that a human is not a machine showing behavior that is caused by factors, but a human being with a free will, able to choose his or her acts in a reasonable way, thus being responsible for those acts.

 It is better to be or become conscious of one’s feelings of attraction and to be conscientiously, implying even not to want any act with even a chance of harming a child, thus controlling oneself. Better to find ways to love children without even a chance of harming them. This is called ‘sublimation’, if needed with help to go that way.

 Society  …

 … want to prevent harm, OK, but not by incarcerating or forcibly psychiatric treating people with asymmetric ears or other anomalies. Also not by treating people with pedophilic feelings, eventually illegal acts, as machines that automatically produces behavior caused by factors.

 It is better to talk with them as a fellow human being motivated by reasons and conscience.  Ask the person to take his or her responsibility. As far as eventually needed, help that person to grow to a responsible way of acting and living within society. Do not condemn them for what they feel, but look carefully what they do. If the process of sublimation succeeds, society will get good parents, teachers, nurses and coaches who will be glad to have a place under the sun. The children will not be harmed, but loved and care.