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Pedophilia or paedophilia is a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, generally age 11 years or younger.[1][2] As a medical diagnosis, specific criteria for the disorder extend the cut-off point for prepubescence to age 13.[1] A person who is diagnosed with pedophilia must be at least 16 years of age, but adolescents must be at least five years older than the prepubescent child for the attraction to be diagnosed as pedophilia.[1][2]

Pedophilia is termed pedophilic disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and the manual defines it as a paraphilia in which adults or adolescents 16 years of age or older have intense and recurrent sexual urges towards and fantasies about prepubescent children that they have either acted on or which cause them distress or interpersonal difficulty.[1] The International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) defines it as a sexual preference for children of prepubertal or early pubertal age.[3]

In popular usage, the word pedophilia is often applied to any sexual interest in children or the act of child sexual abuse.[4][5] This use conflates the sexual attraction (pedophilia) with the act of abuse (child molestation), and does not distinguish between attraction to prepubescent and pubescent or post-pubescent minors.[6][7] Researchers recommend that these imprecise uses be avoided because although people who commit child sexual abuse sometimes exhibit the disorder,[5][8] child sexual abuse offenders are not pedophiles unless they have a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children,[6][9][10] and not all pedophiles molest children.[4][5][11][12]

Pedophilia was first formally recognized and named in the late 19th century. A significant amount of research in the area has taken place since the 1980s. Although mostly documented in men, there are also women who exhibit the disorder,[13][14] and researchers assume available estimates underrepresent the true number of female pedophiles.[15] No cure for pedophilia has been developed, but there are therapies that can reduce the incidence of a person committing child sexual abuse.[5][16] In the United States, followingKansas v. Hendricks, sex offenders who are diagnosed with certain mental disorders, particularly pedophilia, can be subject to indefinite civil commitment.[17] The exact causes of pedophilia have not been conclusively established.[18] Some studies of pedophilia in child sex offenders have correlated it with various neurological abnormalities and psychological pathologies.[19]

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