Do people with
pedophilic feelings differ from other people?
We browse through the work of some authors.
Loes Rouweler-Wuts, 1976
Carl Huizinga, 1977
Monica Pieterse, 1978 & 1982
Glenn Wilson & David Cox, 1983
Dennis Howitt, 1996
Désiré Palmen, 2001
Via the Internet
Thiist is a classic repport. Bernard investigated two specific groups: 73 persons who were conscious of their pedophilic feelings and were associated to a work group, and 200 others he had professionally met, people who asked for help or about whom his advice was asked. I quote Bernard (pp. 101-103) after he has concluded that the utter image of the investigated people did not differ from that of the other (Dutch) people.
"The psychological average picture of the paedophiles that were subject to my research also does not differ from that of the population, apart from their being continuously frustrated.
The available material can be used to draw a provisional picture of the average paedophile who is participating in the Work-Groups. A natural cheerfulness seems to be innate in this paedophile. He does not become depressive quickly. He appears to be able to develop harmoniously in spite of all oppression -- especially the psychological oppression after his childhood ('a paedophile is disgusting, therefore I am disgusting'). His liberality and friendly nature is apparent again and again in psycho-diagnostic research. Sadism and masochism seem to occur extremely rarely in paedophiles.
The average image also reveals that the adaptability of a number of paedophiles is high, and that they are mostly persevering. It is possible that the surprisingly high proportion of paedophiles with an academic education in the sample I studied may be explained by an (unconscious) wish to show himself and the world what he is capable of. For the rest, the paedophile is not the prototype of the social climber. Due to the fact they are different they become more detached. Their opinion of others is thereby often moderated and made less severe. Some see that everything is largely relative .
I have been able to see non-paedophiles who suffer an intense internal conflict when confronted with a case of paedophilia in their own circle of acquaintances. They were unable to make up their minds about it freely: the gap between theory and reality was too wide. I myself saw judges struggling with problems of this kind in trials for sexual offences at which I was appearing as an expert.
A portrait of the paedophile? Probably it does not exist. Ultimately, it all boils down to the relationship between one person and another. Whether the partners in the relationship are now of similar ages, or whether they have very different ages, is essentially irrelevant so long as the relationship or single contact is experienced as positive by both partners.
A portrait of the paedophile? Perhaps this is an irrelevant question, because it seems on the whole that a paedophile is a person like you and me."
This research also concerned members of work groups, 60 members. The assumption that people with pedophilic feelings would be afraid of adult women does not hold: 75% strongly denie this. As far as the investigated people who were married, the emotional relationship is felt as good, but the sexual relationship as weak. is there a lack of contacts? No, said 76%. Reticent in their friendships? No, said 54%. Problems on the job? No, said 66%. Friendship is more important than sexuality, said 74%. So far, I don not see any differences with the average Dutchman.
Looking to the sources of their feelings, and looking back to the own childhood, 47% estimated the family relationships as good, while 38% felt them as bad. The author has the opinion that the latter percentage is high.
Again, members of work groups are speaking in his article, 21 members in this case. They said they have discovered their specific feelings for children around the age of 11, but to be able to give them a name and to accept them quite later, usually after the age of 17.
The investigated person remember themselves as a vulnerable, shy and sensitive child, sometimes also as a lonesome child.
In her post-graduate thesis, Monica Pieterse mentions the fact that nearly all of the people with pedophilic feelings who are studied are convicts. Thus, there exists a very one-sided and distorted view of these individuals. However, there are plenty who have no juridical problems or psychological distortions. To give an image of these people, she investigates the literature. Later, in her doctor's dissertation, she completes her own research.
In that report, again members of work groups speak out: 148 in a written inquiry and 13 in a spoken interview. Nearly unanimously the respondents strive for stable and open friendship with children, in may cases also to a care-giving relationship. The question of her research is not what concerns us here, the sources of the specific feelings. Most data apply the relationships factually engaged in by the respondents.
About the sources, we read that 29.1% of the respondents had had a sexual relationship in childhood. We also read that the consciousness of these feelings appeared about the age of ten, but - again - that the acceptation had taken place many years later. During this acceptation process, a period of obsession may take place. This diminishes according to the acceptation, which had happened in most cases.
Their research resembles the former reports mentioned, because a comparable group of 77 persons has been investigated, in this case in Great Britain. The authors found some differences with the general population, but they point to the fact that these differences, although statistically significant, are small. The differences are not to be labeled as abnormal: "no [...] clinically abnormal levels on any of the measures". Moreover, these differences are supposedly the effect, and not the cause of the pedophilic feelings.
Comparable to the "innate natural cheerfulness", fount by Bernard, is the finding that the investigated persons are more extroverted than others. Extroversion is hereditary and cannot be a cause, unless there have been also early experiences of isolation and feelings of inadequacy. The respondents appeared to be less assertive than most men, and sexually more inhibited. This combination makes it difficult to be competitive with other men to conquer the love of a woman. The respondents were significantly - but on a low level of significance - more shy and sensitive. Thus, maybe more lonesome than men on average. Also a low level of depressive, neurotic or sometimes a bit psychotic characteristics have been found, together with unpleasantness about the fact that one had to acknowledge to have pedophilic feelings.
The fathers of the respondents appear as absent for 83%, for one-third as distant or weak, for one-third as loving and OK, and for one-third as severe or scary. This seems to me the average situation. In contrast to of what is often said, there was no better relationship with the mother than usually is the case. Also, contrary to what is often claimed, no distorted thinking or aggression was found in the respondents.
Reviewing the research, Howitt remarks that it is nearly always concerned with people in prisons or clinics. Thus, most research gives a one-sided and not representative image. Moreover, many found characteristics may be caused by the situation of being imprisoned or in treatment. So, for example, the high level of tress may be explained. The differences found are not so great that they might refer to an emotional distortion.
What was found, were more psycho-somatic symptoms. Usually, these indicate some level of neuroticism. These symptoms may also be explained because the investigated persons tend to retire in themselves instead of combating and competing with other men. Being busy with their problems, they are less sensitive to the emotional needs of themselves or of others. Again, we read the result that aggression is inhibited rather than exaggerated.
"The possibility of finding a simple personality profile that differentiates paedophiles from other men has appeared increasingly unrealistic as the research and clinical base has widened. Simplistic notions such as social inadequacy driving men to sex with children become unviable as highly socially skilled paedophiles are found. With few exceptions, personality studies of paedophiles have been empirically orientated, with scant attention paid to theory. Perhaps even less encouraging is the lack of power of personality tests to distinguish clearly among types of paedophile, let alone between paedophiles and other types of sex offenders." (p. 44)
Unless the subtitle of her research report reads "The unacceptable being different", her conclusion is that the investigated people were not completely different from other people: "normal people". Her group of respondents resembles those of Bernard and of Cox & Wilson: members of work groups in The Netherlands. The group is smaller (nine extended spoken interviews), but more up to date. Her conclusion based on the interviews is (in attachment 2, par. 1.5 of her report):
"The respondents I have spoken with appeared me as 'normal people' and not as 'sick'. All respondents were clear in rejecting engagement of sexual relationships with children."
"It appeared clearly that all pedophiles had had great difficulty with their disposition. Some had tried to repress it, but without any success. Once they decided to accept their disposition, because it was impossible to get rid of it. All respondents said to have difficulties with the attitude of society. They feel rejected and stigmatized. For some of them, that produced many problems that they needed therapy."
"The life of a pedophile is just like that of 'normal people'. Most respondents have a job of are student. [...] They clearly point out that they have a normal life along with the disposition."
"It is also clear that the respondents often are busy, by one manner or another, with something that is connected with their disposition. They are members of work groups or associations. They correspondent with people with the same disposition by the Internet. They regularly visit each other. The respondents had read quite a lot of literature."
A small and select group of 12 members of a private international e-mail group has replied to a short inquiry. They were requested to give a retrospect of their childhood. The image that appears is a more or less lonesome child with social skills below the average level. At the ages of eight or nine, one became conscious of erotic fantasies concerning young children. A good relationship with the mother, as often supposed, appeared to have existed. Usually, one supposes an absent or bad father, but the data do not support this here: the relationship with the father was told to be reasonably-good to good.
Another, comparable inquiry, done on a public web site, [but no more on line] says that about 80% of the 46 respondents look back to a reasonable happy childhood, with both parents present. The respondents appear to have discovered their specific feelings mostly between the ages of 11 to 15, but the have concluded 'to be so', much later. A majority of 65% views its disposition as present at birth (28%) or reached in early childhood (27%). A retrospect to childhood does, for a broad majority, not show any or only a few incidents of sexual play.
Generally, one supposes a close relationship with the mother but a standoffish father as the source of pedophilic feelings. However, first, this type of parents are common in our society. Secondly, this image does not fit with the data. The concerned people mostly has felt the relationship as good (with the mother) or as reasonably good (with the father).
In a variety of personality tests, only a few differences with the general population have been found. As far as these differences are significant, they are small. They may not be labeled as pathological, rather as a variance within the normal range.
As far as differences have been found, they refer to a more or less shy person, mostly a man, a bit lonesome in childhood, but with generally good relationships with both parents, both having been present. Research found not a great, but rather a low level of sexual urge. Also few tend to enter in competition with other men, and demonstrate little aggression. Rather, sensitivity is a characterizing feature.
Research found also a few more stress and psycho-dynamic symptoms, thus possibly some more neuroticism than average. But we may explain this rather as the effect instead of as the cause of the specific feelings experienced.
sensitive people who show little aggression and less sexual urge.
They have a specific and difficult position in society.