Stigmatization of pedophilia

This is a new study of stigma based on a sample of German pedophiles recruited from the Internet. The main findings are:

  • Although pedophilia is highly stigmatized, pedophiles overestimated the level of stigmatization. In a previous study, only a minority of the general population said that non-offending pedophiles should be incarcerated or would be better off dead, but pedophiles mistakenly believed these were majority views. “People with pedophilia may therefore lack opportunities to verify their assumptions about how the majority actually perceives them, but instead base their conclusions on their experiences with a small, but possibly very vocal, number of people or media expressing high levels of stigmatizing attitudes.”
  • Fear of being discovered as a pedophile was linked to poor social and emotional functioning:

    the more people with pedophilia experienced fear that others may find out about their sexual interests, the more emotional and social problems are reported, even when controlling for potential confounds like social desirability, educational level, and age. This is in line with the assumptions from our framework, which has been informed by similar experiences of LGB people (Meyer, 2003). Therefore, similar to these sexual minority groups, higher rates of mental disorders among people with pedophilia may result from, or be exacerbated by, the stressful experience of belonging to a stigmatized group.

    Perceived stigmatization of pedophilia was not associated with poor functioning, contrary to the authors’ hypothesis (“Just because people with pedophilia acknowledge public stigma they do not necessarily believe or internalize it”).

  • Participants showed fewer mental problems than in studies of criminally or clinically sampled pedophiles, but still higher than the general population, perhaps as an effect of the aforementioned stressful experiences. Attitudes towards sex with children were also “far less offense-supportive than among incarcerated pedophilic child sexual abusers”.

An upcoming study is announced in this paper’s unpublished reference for the statement that “a number of people with sexual interests in children never commit sexual crimes involving children”. The manuscript for the new study is titled “How common is males’ sexual interest in prepubescent children?”. Hopefully it appears soon.

This team has published four previous studies on the stigmatization of pedophilia. They are:


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