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Biological explanation for Pedophilia?

October 23, 2012

There are few topics in the mental health field more frightening than pedophilia.  With the widely discussed cases of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, among sports teams, and even instances in the Boy Scouts, the issue of classifying pedophilia as an illness versus crime is an important one.  This article Can Science Spot a Pedophile? Research Zeroes In On Brain Abnormalities in Newsweek tackles the medicalization of pedophilia, suggesting that pedophiles can be identified purely by studying brain chemistry.

In recent years, more than five different scientific studies have detected significant abnormalities in pedophile’s brains through the use of MRIs.  Researchers at the University of Toronto discovered that pedophiles appear to have significantly less white matter than non-pedophiles.  White matter being a substance that connects different parts of the brain.  New MRI scans called diffusion tensor images produce more accurate representations of how pedophile’s brains are wired.  The hypothesis of the researchers was that the lack of brain matter that connects the parts of the brain caused a difficulty in differentiating between sexual objects.  The researches also indicated that pedophiles commonly had lower IQ’s, and are also disproportionately left-handed.  In the article Cantor says. “Whatever chain of events leads to pedophilia, the first link in that chain seems to be before birth,”

If science can truly predict whether a person has pedophilic tendencies, the next question is what causes these biological differences in the make up of pedophile’s brains?  There has not been a clear answer to this question but Cantor and other researchers at Toronto University think there might be a link between pedophilia and maternal stress or poor nutrition during pregnancy.  Since the media has brought light to the issue of pedophilia, most research today deals with treatments for pedophilic urges.  Coming up with a pharmaceutical solution that will curb the urges of pedophiles will not cure pedophilia because correct treatment is difficult to uncover without fully understanding what causes the disorder.  Researchers have found that many pedophiles suffer from comorbitity, therefore Plante, a professor at California’s Santa Clara University thinks pedophilia should be considered a mental-health issue that requires a hybrid of biological, psychological, and social treatments rather than a criminal predilection or a disease easily treated with a pill.

If pedophilia is proven to be a biological issue, and can be detected through scientific measures as the studies have indicated, I think the way our society views the pedophilia epidemic will begin to drastically change.  If these findings become widely accepted in the medical industry will we move from a criminal punishment strategy to fixing pedophilia, or will the medical health field start pre-screening people for the genetic abnormalities found in pedophiles.  Should we start requiring mandatory MRI scans on people who work closely with young children?

Kelsey Haus

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/19/can-science-spot-a-pedophile-research-zeroes-in-on-brain-abnormalities.html

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2012 11:06 pm

    This is a very intriguing subject, especially as of lately with all of the pedophilia that has been in the news. I have always thought of pedophilia as a criminal act not as a biological disease. I had always thought that pedophilia stemmed from some sort of traumatic event that was suffered in early life or some type of urge that was uncontrollable. The thought that pedophilia could be a biological problem is stimulating. If research on this subject advances further and can become a concrete identifier of what causes pedophilia then I agree that tests should be run on people who are wanting to work around children to identify if they have any of the indicators of pedophilia. I also believe that this could create other issues such as people being turned down for jobs working with children and then never becoming a pedophile or ever having any such urges what so ever.

    David Parker

  2. October 29, 2012 7:16 pm

    I wonder what the *criticisms* of this research are….for instance, are there other people *who are not pedophiles* who also have similar brain scans? Prof Replogle

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