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Personality Impairment in Male Pedophiles

J Clin Psychiatry 2002;63(10):912-919

Background: Despite the large body of literature on the psychological sequelae of childhood sexual abuse, the literature on the psychopathology of pedophiles is surprisingly underdeveloped. The present article explores the hypothesis that pedophiles evidence deficits in interpersonal functioning (lack of assertiveness and empathy, passive-aggressiveness) and in self-concept, which might contribute to the motivation for pedophilic acts, as well as elevated sociopathy, impulsivity, and propensity for cognitive distortions, which might underlie the inhibitory failure.

Method: Twenty male heterosexual pedophiles (DSM-IV criteria) recruited from an outpatient clinic for sex offenders were compared with 24 demographically similar, healthy male controls using 3 personality instruments: the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-II, the Dimensional Assessment of Personality Impairment-Questionnaire, and the Temperament and Character Inventory.

Results: The data suggested that pedophiles have impaired interpersonal functioning, specifically, reduced assertiveness and elevated passive-aggressiveness, as well as impaired self-concept. Regarding disinhibitory traits, pedophiles demonstrated elevated sociopathy and propensity for cognitive distortions.

Conclusion: Our data are consistent with previous reports of pathologic personality traits in pedophiles and lend support to a hypothesis that such pathology is related to both motivation for and failure to inhibit pedophilic behavior. Such information could potentially have important treatment implications.