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Clinical Features of Pedophilia and Implications for Treatment

COHEN, LISA J. PhD; GALYNKER, IGOR I. MD, PhD

Journal of Psychiatric Practice: September 2002 - Volume 8 - Issue 5 - p 276-289
Articles

The authors discuss the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia and review the literature on its clinical features, including data on prevalence, gender, age of onset, number of victims, frequency and type of acts, violence, impulsivity, and insight. Findings concerning the characteristics of victims (e.g., sex, age, relationship to the pedophile) and research on pedophilic subtypes—exclusive versus nonexclusive; incestuous versus nonincestuous; heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual—are reviewed. Studies have shown that pedophiles may share many psychiatric features beyond deviant sexual desire, including high rates of comorbid axis I disorders (affective disorders, substance use disorders, impulse control disorders, other paraphilias) as well as severe axis II psychopathology (especially antisocial and Cluster C personality disorders). The authors present several possible etiological models for pedophilia and conclude that further research is needed concerning the etiological role of a childhood history of sexual abuse as well as the underlying neurobiology of deviant sexual arousal and decreased erotic differentiation. Finally, findings concerning pharmacological and cognitive-behavioral treatments for pedophilia are briefly reviewed. Recidivism, drop-out, and noncompliance are significant problems in the treatment of pedophilia. The authors review predictors of treatment outcome and conclude that pedophilia is extremely difficult to treat and that effective treatment needs to be intensive, long-term, and comprehensive, possibly with lifetime follow-up.

COHEN and GALYNKER: Beth Israel Medical Center, New York.

Please send correspondence and reprint requests to: Lisa J. Cohen, PhD, Beth Israel Medical Center, 1st Ave. & 16th St., New York, NY 10003.

Supported in part by NIDA grant RFADA98004 to Dr. Galynker.

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.