, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 797-829
Date: 28 Jun 2012

Hebephilia as Mental Disorder? A Historical, Cross-Cultural, Sociological, Cross-Species, Non-Clinical Empirical, and Evolutionary Review

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Abstract

Blanchard et al. (2009) demonstrated that hebephilia is a genuine sexual preference, but then proposed, without argument or evidence, that it should be designated as a mental disorder in the DSM-5. A series of Letters-to-the-Editor criticized this proposal as a non sequitur. Blanchard (2009), in rebuttal, reaffirmed his position, but without adequately addressing some central criticisms. In this article, we examine hebephilia-as-disorder in full detail. Unlike Blanchard et al., we discuss definitions of mental disorder, examine extensive evidence from a broad range of sources, and consider alternative (i.e., non-pathological) explanations for hebephilia. We employed Wakefield’s (1992b) harmful dysfunction approach to disorder, which holds that a condition only counts as a disorder when it is a failure of a naturally selected mechanism to function as designed, which is harmful to the individual in the current environment. We also considered a harmful-for-others approach to disorder (Brülde, 2007). Examination of historical, cross-cultural, sociological, cross-species, non-clinical empirical, and evolutionary evidence and perspectives indicated that hebephilic interest is an evolved capacity and hebephilic preference an expectable distributional variant, both of which were adaptively neutral or functional, not dysfunctional, in earlier human environments. Hebephilia’s conflict with modern society makes it an evolutionary mismatch, not a genuine disorder. Though it should not be classified as a disorder, it could be entered in the DSM’s 5-code section, used for non-disordered conditions that create significant problems in present-day society.

An erratum to this article can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-0029-1.