Pedophile, Child Lover, or Minor-Attracted Person? Attitudes Toward Labels Among People Who are Sexually Attracted to Children

Arch Sex Behav. 2022 Nov;51(8):4125-4139. doi: 10.1007/s10508-022-02331-6. Epub 2022 Sep 29.


The primary label for people who are sexually attracted to children ("pedophile") is conflated with sexual offending behavior and tainted with stigma. In the present pre-registered mixed-method study, we therefore investigated attitudes and preferences regarding "pedophile/hebephile" and other labels among 286 people who report a stronger or equally strong sexual attraction to prepubescent and pubescent children than to adults. Overall, quantitative data showed acceptance of "pedophile/hebephile" as well as a range of alternative labels in a personal (Labeling Oneself) and a professional context (Being Labeled by Others). "Minor-attracted person" and "pedophile/hebephile" received generally higher support than other terms and appeared to be least divisive across three major online fora. Qualitative data revealed four themes: "Contested self-labels," "Person-first language and pathologizing sexuality/identity," "Stigma and shame," and "Reclaiming the pedophile label." Our results allow deeper insight into reasons for adopting certain labels over others, as well as difficulties of finding a non-stigmatizing label. We discuss limitations of the study and practical implications for clinical and research contexts.

Keywords: DSM-5; Hebephilia; Identity; Labeling; Mixed-method; Pedophilia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Pedophilia*
  • Sex Offenses*
  • Sexual Behavior