Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 95-105

First online:

Problems with the DSM-IV Diagnosis of Pedophilia

  • William O'DonohueAffiliated withUniversity of Nevada
  • , Lisa G. RegevAffiliated withUniversity of Nevada
  • , Anne HagstromAffiliated withNorthern Illinois University

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This paper examines the taxonomic adequacy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 4th ed., DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) diagnostic category of pedophilia. This diagnosis, as well as the other sexual disorders, have been ignored in DSM field trials. There is no empirical information about the reliability or validity of this diagnosis. Moreover, because the vagueness of the diagnostic criteria, clinicians would need to make inferences that would likely lead to reliability problems in diagnosis. Further, the DSM diagnostic criteria include constructs that are not intersubjectively verifiable and for which there are no valid measures. This can also lead to lack of diagnostic reliability and accuracy. Most problematical however, there are aspects of the diagnostic criteria, most notably the presence of an “ego dystonic sexual attraction to children,” that are incorrect exclusion criteria. Suggestions for improvement are provided.

pedophilia sexual interest DSM-IV behavioral disorder