Mary E. Muscari, PhD, CPNP, APRN-B


October 23, 2007

Response  from the Expert


Response from Mary E. Muscari, PhD, CPNP, APRN-B
Professor, Director of Forensic Health/Nursing, University of Scranton, Scranton, Pennsylvania; Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Clinical Specialist, Forensic Clinical Specialist, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania


Derived from the Greek words pedeiktos (children) and philia (love), pedophilia belongs to the group of psychiatric disorders referred to as paraphilias by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).[1] Paraphilias are behaviors that:

  • Are recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or similar behaviors;

  • Involve children or other nonconsenting persons, nonhumans, or the suffering or humiliation of oneself or one's partner; and

  • Occur over a period of at least 6 months.

Specific criteria for pedophilia include: (1) fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors that involve sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children; (2) personal difficulty or marked distress from acting on these urges or fantasies; and (3) offender's age at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the victim. Pedophilia is egosyntonic in nature; many individuals with this disorder are not distressed by their behaviors. Therefore, criterion #2 (experiencing distress over fantasies, urges, or behaviors) is not a prerequisite for a diagnosis of pedophilia. Individuals who have a pedophilic arousal pattern and act on their urges or fantasies qualify for a diagnosis of pedophilia.[1]

Not all child molesters are pedophiles, and not all pedophiles are offenders. Some individuals sexually abuse children as part of a pattern of antisocial behavior. On the other hand, some individuals will meet the criteria for pedophilia without committing a crime if they have recurrent, intense, sexually arousing fantasies or sexual urges involving a prepubescent child or children over a period of at least 6 months and if they meet the age parameters described above.


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