Pedophilia: Causes and TypologiesPerhaps no single act causes such strong emotions as the act of childsexual abuse. Child molesters can not even find refuge in prisons whererapists and murderers are commonplace. These offenders are shunned in everyaspect of our society, yet there is no consensus as tothe causes of thisbehavior. Sexual abuse of children is not new, and has not always been sociallytaboo. The ancient Greeks and Romans used children for sexualgratification(Langevin, 1983).
In Greece, it was commonplace for adolescentmales to be forced into sexual relationships with mature males. This behaviorwas normal and not objected to by the child’s parents nor the Greekgovernment(Langevin, 1983). The Romans encouraged adolescent boys and girls notto protest being sold into prostitution. The Roman government even went so faras to declare a public holiday honoring young prostitutes(Kahr, 1991). Sex with children in the modern era is alive and well, the power of anolder person is so great that their young victims often never tell of thehorrors that they have endured.
There is also a pedophile enhancement movement,with confessed pedophiles insisting that their behavior is not wrong or immoral. Organizations dedicated to the social acceptance of sex with children are notnew, yet have had a large upstart in membership since the early 1970’s(Charon,1979). Because of the extreme sensitivity of the subject, research in thisfield is quite underdeveloped. Researchers have even had trouble in agreeingwhat to call the phenomenon. Much research on the victims has dubbed the act aschild sexual abuse, most research on the offenders has labeled it as childmolesting or pedophilia.
The term pedophilia has some utility since it suggestsa predisposition for the act separate from the act itself. The ambiguity ofthis term however, is what causes confusion. Pedophilia can mean child sexualabuse ranging from an arousal to children with no or little action, to sexualpenetration of the child. For the purposes of this paper the terms pedophilia,child sexual abuse, and child molestation will be used interchangeably. This paper will focus on the possible causes of child sexual abuse.
Itwill examine several etiologies of pedophiles as suggested by researchers. Toreduce this behavior in offenders, we must first attempt to gain anunderstanding of WHY?This question has no easy answer,and the researchers inthis field have found very little to agree upon. There is is however, commonground which may enable us to combine theories into a workable start to asolution of the unspeakable crime. Pedophiles can be classified into different categories by several issues,the most common of which are causation, and victim-relationship. Usingdifferent classifications to isolate pedophiliac behavior can help us tounderstand this behavior and begin to find methods in which it may be contained.
`Classification of Pedophiles Pedophile classification is a hotly debated topic that varies significantlyin it’s origins. There are a few standards however,pedophiles can beseparated by those who sexually abuse members of there own family or step-families, and those who abuse non-family members(Langevin, 1983). Even thissimple distinction is not always accurate though,often familial offenders havepreviously offended non-family members(Hunter, 1990). Some common causes ofpedophilia have found much popular and scholarly support, and these etiologiescan give a general profile of some of the origins of child sexual abuse. Whilethe names of this etiologies vary greatly, the descriptions of each remainessentially intact. Conditioned Response TheorySome researchers have maintained that the pedophile becomes conditionedto respond to young, sexually under-developed bodies.
It has been suggestedthat boys begin masturbating to fantasies that involve sexually immature bodies,and then become so conditioned to these images that they need them to createsexual gratification(McGuire, Carlisle, ; Young, 1965). Garland andDougher(1990) theorized two reasons for this behavior leading to the developmentof pedophiliac behavior:(1) and adolescent’s sexual activity with persons his orher own age could condition sexual arousal to pubescent children, and (2)through memory distortions that have occur with the passage of time, the childor adolescent who was sexually victimized by an adult developed a fantasy thatplaces him or her in the role of the aggressor rather than in the role of thevictim. As a result of this recurrent fantasy, he or she then becomes sexuallyconditioned to respond to children. Learned behavior closely resembles the conditioned response theory. Pedophilia as a learned behavior is due to sexual abuse of the abuser as a child.
The pedophile then begins to imitate this behavior later in life(Groth, Hobson,and Gary, 1982). Social Skills TheorySocial skills that have been underdeveloped or dysfunctional socialskills have been suggested as a possible explanation for pedophilia, especiallyrelating to persons of the opposite sex. Segal and Marshall(1985) comparedrapists, child molesters, non-sexual offenders, and two control groups on socialskill ability. The researchers based their social skill ratings based on tapedconversations with females and found that all offender groups were less sociallycompetent . .
. . . than the control groups.
The child molesters were less skilled atpredicting and evaluating their own performance in heterosexual situations. Interacting with children may giver the pedophile a feeling of control andreduce anxiety(Langevin, 1983). Low Self-esteemPedophilia has often been linked with previous emotional, physical, orsexual trauma. This trauma becomes so painful that it results inunderdevelopment or a stifling of future development(Groth, Hobson, andGary,1982).
According to this line of reasoning this underdevelopment will notallow a person to mature emotionally as his or her body matures. The pedophileis the emotional equivalent of a child, and thus depends on them and begins toview them as sexual objects as well(Langevin, 1983). Using children in a sexualmanner to cope with anxiety is reinforced and becomes a normal behavior pattern. Pedophilia asan AddictionPedophilia as an addiction is a fairly new way of examining this type ofbehavior. In the early 1980’sresearchers began to ask questions aboutpedophiliacs’ behavior and found that parallels could be drawn between this andother addictive behaviors. Patrick Carnes(1983) developed a model of sexualaddiction to explain the behaviors of sexual abusers.
Carnes suggested thatmolestation of children is a sexual addiction. He stated that the addict movesthrough a four-stage process, with each step becoming more addictive. Preoccupation is the first stage in Carnes’ model. The addict is unableto think about anything else except sex.
The addict begins to seek experiencesto satisfy their desires. Ritualization is the second stage, in which theaddictwill engage in specific behaviors that culminate in sexually acting outbehaviors. Compulsive behavior is the third stage, which is the sex act. Thefourth and final stage is despair. This is when the addict realizes that thereis a lack of control over the compulsive behaviors.
Carnes suggested three separate levels of addiction within this model. Level one addicts are associated with pornography, compulsive masturbation,repeatedly engaging in purely sexual relationships with no other meaning, andprostitution. Level two behaviors include illegal sexual acts with anotherperson being victimized emotionally, but not physically(exhibition, voyeurism). Level three behavior includes rape, incest, and pedophiliac behavior.
Feminist TheoryThe feminist theory argues that children are easy targets for sexualabuse by mature males because of the emphasis that our society puts on the malebeing the dominant, powerful, and controlling partner in intimaterelationships(Hite, 1981). Males, on the other hand tend to search out sexualpartners who are younger, smaller, and weaker than themselves(Finkelhor andAraji, 1986, p. 149). Child pornography and advertising have been targeted by some feministsas having a role in the onset of pedophilia(Rush, 1980). The reasoning forthese beliefs are based on the assumption that viewing pornography eroticizeschildren, and teaches adolescents to become aroused by children. Family TheoriesPedophilia within the family, or incest is usually found in familieswhere the family unit is rigid and lacking any guidelines or boundaries(Will,1983).
Families in which incest occurs are both physically and sociallyisolated from the community in which they live. Family members depend only onone another for their needs and rarely seek outside assistance for anything. Frequently the child is forced to grow up quickly and assume the role ofcaretaker within the family. This caretaking role is then pushed beyondconventional limits to include the physical needs of an adult within the family. The needs of the child are given very little recognition by the parents. Families have been classified into two general types of units in whichincest is more likely to occur.
These include the Chaotic family and the normal-appearing family(Kempe and Kempe, 1984). The chaotic family istypically of low socioeconomic status; is dysfunctional in that the familymembers have histories of substance abuse, incarceration, violence, and mostmembers have very little or no education. Children raised within family unitssuch as this are more likely to become targets of interfamilial sexual abuse. The normal-appearing family gives off the impression that everythingis perfectly normal.
Frequently the parents have been married for years, arefinancially secure, and have established roles within the community(Kempe ;Kempe, 1984). Incestuous parents in this type of family are often unable tocare for their children our themselves, either emotionally or physically. Theyare usually quite needy and turn to their children to fulfill those needs. Incest in this type of family is especially troublesome since even if it isreported, a conviction is unlikely without solid physical proof.The adult isan fine upstanding member of the communityintheir eyes.Often theauthorities will side with the adult and punish the child for these attempts tobring pain upon their parents(Kempe ; Kempe, 1984).In both the chaotic and the normal-appearing families, incest isoften carried on from one generation to another.This phenomenon has beendubbed the intergenerational transmission of incest(Kempe ; Kempe, 1984).Researchers have found similarities in families in which this phenomenon ha