Pedophilia: a diagnosis in search of a disorder

Arch Sex Behav. 2012 Oct;41(5):1083-97. doi: 10.1007/s10508-012-9919-5. Epub 2012 Feb 25.


This article presents a critical review of the recent controversies concerning the diagnosis of pedophilia in the context of the preparation of the fifth edition of the DSM. The analysis focuses basically on the relationship between pedophilia and the current DSM-IV-TR's definition of mental disorder. Scholars appear not to share numerous basic assumptions ranging from their underlying ideas about what constitutes a mental disorder to the role of psychiatry in modern society, including irreconcilable theories about human sexuality, which interfere with reaching any kind of a consensus as to what the psychiatric status of pedophilia should be. It is questioned if the diagnosis of pedophilia contained in the DSM is more forensic than therapeutic, focusing rather on the dangers inherent in the condition of pedophilia (dangerous dysfunction) than on its negative effects for the subject (harmful dysfunction). The apparent necessity of the diagnosis of pedophilia in the DSM is supported, but the basis for this diagnosis is uncertain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / classification*
  • Pedophilia / classification
  • Pedophilia / diagnosis*