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Special Communication
November 20, 2002


Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Lutherville, Md.

JAMA. 2002;288(19):2458-2465. doi:10.1001/jama.288.19.2458

This article addresses the risk factors associated with the psychiatric disorder pedophilia, its treatment, and treatment outcomes. It addresses physician responsibilities associated with case identification of victims and possible roles in the medical management of pedophilia. The essential feature of pedophilia is that an individual is sexually attracted exclusively or in part to prepubescent children. While pedophilia may be limited to fantasies and impulses, pedophilic behaviors are the primary concern of both the mental health and criminal justice systems. Remote risk factors for development of pedophilia often include the individual having been sexually abused as a child. Proximate risk factors for its behavioral expression are prevalence of comorbid psychiatric disorders and substance abuse disorders. Current treatment goals focus on stopping the behavior and achieving long-term behavioral control in the community. Common treatment methods are cognitive-behavioral, group therapy, and, when appropriate, medications such as androgen-lowering agents that can act as sexual appetite suppressants. Meta-analyses have established that treatment is more effective than nontreatment in preventing recidivism of sexual offenders in general, a finding that has a high probability of application to individuals with pedophilia. Pedophilia is a chronic psychiatric disorder, but it is treatable in terms of developing strategies for preventing behavioral expression. Ultimately, reducing the prevalence of pedophilic behavior requires further collaboration between the criminal justice system and the health care communities.

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