Many experts now view pedophilia as a sexual orientation [Google+ hangout]
Pedophilia once was thought to stem from psychological influences early in life, but now, many experts view it as a deep-rooted predisposition that does not change.
Times reporter Alan Zarembo will join city editor Shelby Grad at 3 p.m. in a Google+ hangout to discuss the origins of pedophilia, which is limited almost entirely to men and becomes clear during puberty and does not change.
Paul Christiano's desire for young girls remained stuck in time as he neared adulthood. Despite a stable home life in suburban Chicago, he was tortured by urges he knew could land him in prison.
In 1999, Christiano was caught buying child pornography. Now 36, he said he has never molested a child, but after five years of state-ordered therapy, the attraction remains.
In his Tuesday article, Zarembo wrote:
The best estimates are that between 1% and 5% of men are pedophiles, meaning that they have a dominant attraction to prepubescent children.
Not all pedophiles molest children. Nor are all child molesters pedophiles. Studies show that about half of all molesters are not sexually attracted to their victims. They often have personality disorders or violent streaks, and their victims are typically family members.
By contrast, pedophiles tend to think of children as romantic partners and look beyond immediate relatives. They include chronic abusers familiar from the headlines — Catholic priests, coaches and generations of Boy Scout leaders.
Other pedophiles are "good people who are struggling," said Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist who heads the Johns Hopkins Sexual Behaviors Consultation Unit. "They're tortured souls fighting like heck not to do this. We do virtually nothing in terms of reaching out to these folks. We drive it underground."
Most clinicians have given up on changing the sexual orientation of pedophiles in favor of teaching the how to resist their unacceptable desires.
Experts believe that pedophiles who also have a significant attraction to adults stand the best chance of staying out of trouble, because of their capacity for some sexual fulfillment that is legal. For others, injections of hormones to reduce sex drive are often recommended.