“It’s not that hard to not commit a crime”: Distinguishing individuals who have and who have not acted on pedophilic interests

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University of New Brunswick


Little research has explored why some individuals with sexual interest in children (i.e., pedophilic interest) act on their interests whereas others do not. This dissertation examines factors that distinguish individuals with pedophilic interests who have engaged in pedophilic behaviours (i.e., engaged in child sexual abuse or viewed child sexual exploitation material) from those individuals who have not engaged in such behaviours. English-speaking participants (N = 136) with self-report pedophilic interests from multiple nations (e.g., Canada, United States, United Kingdom) were recruited via social media platforms (i.e., Reddit, Twitter, Facebook) and online pedophilia support groups and forums (e.g., Virtuous Pedophiles, NNAI Space) to complete an online survey regarding sexual interests and behaviours as well as on help-seeking experiences. Multivariate analysis of variance and discriminant function analysis indicated that factors associated historically with sexual offending in general (e.g., criminal history, hypersexuality) best differentiated individuals exclusively with pedophilic interests from individuals with pedophilic behaviours. Further, based on thematic analysis of open-ended responses, three main themes emerged reflecting participants’ (1) general distress; (2) attempts to search for meaning and purpose; and (3) characteristics contributing to offending. Overall, results suggest several avenues for future research, including conducting typographical research with individuals with pedophilic interests who have and have not acted on their interests, directly comparing criminal and community-based samples, and applying non-criminological theories to the study of pedophilic interests. In addition, qualitative findings highlight the need for mental health clinicians to increase their comfort and knowledge relating to mandatory reporting, risk of offending, and the significant mental health needs of men and women with pedophilic interests. This shift will improve well-being and access to mental health services among a highly marginalized group and may reduce incidents of sexual abuse.