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Modern diagnostic criteria of paedophilia

DSM-IV-TR defi ned paedophilia as ‘recurrent intense sexual urges and sexually arousing fantasies involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children’ and that the person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal diff i culty. In addition, the perpetrator has to be at least 16 years old and at least 5 years older than the child or children involved. Note the emphasis on the victim’s sexual maturity, not age. Legal defi nitions lay clear boundaries as to the age at which consenting couples may have intercourse. Violation of these limits will result in an individual being termed a sex offender, but not a paedophile unless the other child is pre-pubescent. Paedophilic behaviours vary. Some paedophiles may look at and not touch a child. Others may want to touch or undress them. When sexual activity occurs, it often involves oral sex or touching the genitals of the child. In most cases, except incest, there is no penetration. Where sex is penetrative, it is usually with older children and may involve threats or force. More typically, however, paedophilic individuals depend on persuasion, guile and ‘friendship’ (Murray 2000). Paedophiles who are attracted to females usually prefer 8 –10-year-olds, while those attracted to boys prefer slightly older children (APA 1994). Most are relatives, friends or neighbours of the child. Prevalence levels of paedophilia are extremely diffi cult to determine. Most surveys report the prevalence of people who have been sexually abused rather than the prevalence of perpetrators. Barbaree and Seto (1997), for example, calculated that at least 7 per cent of US females and 3 per cent of males have experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse, although some surveys suggest even higher prevalence rates.

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