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The Psychology Behind Pedophilia

According to Merriam Webster, pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder defined as “sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object”. In other words, it basically means older people being sexually attracted towards young children (generally 13 years old or under).

There’s more to what meets the eye, and while pedophiles are called “creepy”, it’s not exactly something they can control easily. In this post you will learn more about pedophilia and what goes through the mind of a pedophile.


Pedophilia is a type of paraphilia classified by the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5 ed.). Pedophilia is classified when it meets these three conditions:

  • The pedophile must be aged above 16 and must be 5 years (or more) older than the victim

  • The pedophile constantly has intense sexually arousing fantasies or urges towards children who have not reached puberty yet

  • The pedophile acts on these sexually arousing fantasies or urges and causes distress

(All criterias are based on DSM-5)

[ DSM-5: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition ]

Types of pedophiles

Sadistic pedophiles

Sadistic pedophiles try to experience or gain maximum pleasure. These pedophiles normally target the happiest kid in the playground and aim to completely ruin their minds and traumatize them.

Playful pedophiles

Playful pedophiles, as the name suggests, just play with children and never cross the line to traumatize them. They make sure that the psychological side of children are not affected at all.

Hebephiles: Adults attracted to children on the cusp of puberty

Ephebophiles: Adults attracted to children past the age of puberty

Three possible reasons why they would be sexually attracted to children

  • Biological: naturally attracted to less mature faces

  • Were sexually abused as children

  • Antisocial amongst adults

Similar but different - child molesters

Child molesters are, simply put, people who try to have sex with children and harm or traumatize the children for their sexual benefit; they’re sex offenders.

Are all pedophiles child molesters? No. Pedophiles are only child molesters if they act out on the child. Some pedophiles prefer to masturbate after seeing or talking to a child, and others may even prefer to have sex with adults who look, or act like children (for example, having a flat chest, having no body hair, and speak immature baby talk). These types of pedophiles are not child molesters. Pedophiles are not child molesters unless they act out their fantasies in illegal ways such as sexually abusing a child.

Case Study:

Roughly two years ago, former president Donald Trump retweeted a tweet, calling Joe Biden out for being a pedophile, as seen from the hashtag #PedoBiden. The tweet also included a GIF of the President of the United States whispering into Stephanie Carter’s (wife of former defense secretary, Ash Carter) ear. It was a misleading GIF because people instantly thought he was “smelling” her and people believed that it made Stephanie Carter uncomfortable. Carter then wrote in her blog that Biden’s show of affection is actually deeply appreciated.

Pedophilia is a serious issue and while pedophilia itself does not give rise to criminal liability, acting on it does. However, calling someone a pedophile has been overused to insult people even if pedophilia wasn’t part of the situation. Helping a little kid pick up a toy or hugging a crying kid suddenly makes you a pedophile.

Please do not call people pedophiles unless there are true signs of it. Signs of pedophilia includes:

  • Spending more time with children than with adults

  • Constantly touching children in inappropriate places

  • Watching or staring at children for long periods of time

  • Locking the door when alone with a child in a room

  • Talking to children the same way one would talk to a lover

  • Collecting child pornography



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