Retrospective self-reports of childhood accidents causing unconsciousness in phallometrically diagnosed pedophiles

Arch Sex Behav. 2002 Dec;31(6):511-26. doi: 10.1023/a:1020659331965.


The present study investigated whetherhead injuries in childhood might increase the risk of pedophilia in males. The subjects were 1206 patients referred to a clinical sexology service for assessment of their erotic preferences. These were classified, on the basis of phallometric test results, as pedophilic (n = 413) or nonpedophilic (n = 793). Information regarding early head injuries, other signs of possible neurodevelopmental problems, and parental histories of psychiatric treatment were collected with self-administered questionnaires. The results showed that childhood accidents that resulted in unconsciousness were associated with pedophilia and with lower levels of intelligence and education. These associations were statistically significant for accidents that occurred before the age of 6, but not for accidents that occurred between the ages of 6 and 12. These results are compatible with the hypothesis that neurodevelopmental perturbations in early childhood may increase the risk of pedophilia. They are also, however, compatible with the alternative explanation that prior neurodevelopmental problems lead to accident-proneness and head injury, on the one hand, and to pedophilia, on the other, and that head injury has no causal influence on pedophilia. A secondary finding was that the pedophiles were more likely to report that their mothers had undergone psychiatric treatment. This finding suggests that pedophilia may be influenced by genetic factors, which are manifested in women as an increased risk of psychiatric problems, and in their sons, as an increased risk of erotic interest in children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Choice Behavior
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pedophilia / diagnosis*
  • Pedophilia / epidemiology
  • Pedophilia / psychology*
  • Penile Erection / psychology*
  • Plethysmography / instrumentation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Unconscious, Psychology*