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Sexual Attraction and Falling in Love in Persons with Pedohebephilia


Few studies of pedophilia or hebephilia have included questions about romantic attraction. We conducted an anonymous online survey of 306 men who self-reported as sexually attracted to children. The majority (72%) of participants reported they had fallen in love with a child in their lifetime. Participants reported greater feelings of attachment to children than feelings of infatuation. Though sexual attraction and falling in love were strongly correlated, they were not synonymous. Participants who reported pedohebephilia (defined in this study as attraction to prepubescent and pubescent children) were more likely to have fallen in love with a child than participants who reported pedohebe-ephebophilia (defined as attraction to prepubescent, pubescent, and post-pubescent minors). Also, participants with an exclusive attraction to children were more likely to have fallen in love with a child than participants who were equally attracted to children and adults. The results of this study were consistent with the suggestion of Seto (2012) that pedohebephilia could be considered a form of sexual orientation for age, which includes both sexual and romantic attraction.

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  1. Chronophilias (paraphilias regarding different age/maturity categories; Seto, 2012) are defined in terms of the Tanner (1990) stages of physical maturation, but physical maturation is rarely known, so age is used as a proxy instead.

  2. We attempted a trial survey using Tor (The Onion Router;, using the Globaleaks platform (—however, participants perceived several security issues with the Globaleaks platform (see, e.g., Abbott, Lai, Lieberman, & Priece, 2007). Furthermore, this interface did not allow for conditional logic, and thus required participants to view all questions rather than those applicable to their responses. This may have contributed to low participation rates (N = 15) and possible biases. As such, we discontinued the Tor version of the survey and removed these participants from analyses.

  3. The association between having fallen in love with a child and having committed a sexual offense was reduced and continued not to reach the statistical significance threshold (p < .05) after controlling for the age of participants (AOR = 1.94, 95% CI [0.84, 4.51]).


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The authors would like to thank all moderators and participants of the forums who have supported the research. Frederica M. Martijn conducted part of the research while affiliated with The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

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Correspondence to Michael C. Seto.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research Ethics Board (REB number 2017040) and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Martijn, F.M., Babchishin, K.M., Pullman, L.E. et al. Sexual Attraction and Falling in Love in Persons with Pedohebephilia. Arch Sex Behav 49, 1305–1318 (2020).

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