Perhaps no single act causes such strong emotions as the act of child sexual abuse. Child molesters can not even find refuge in prisons where rapists and murderers are commonplace. These offenders are shunned in every aspect of our society, yet there is no consensus as to the causes of this behavior.
Sexual abuse of children is not new, and has not always been socially taboo. The ancient Greeks and Romans used children for sexual gratification(Langevin, 1983). In Greece, it was commonplace for adolescent males to be forced into sexual relationships with mature males. This behavior was normal and not objected to by the child's parents nor the Greek government(Langevin, 1983). The Romans encouraged adolescent boys and girls not to protest being sold into prostitution. The Roman government even went so far as to declare a public holiday honoring young prostitutes(Kahr, 1991).
Sex with children in the modern era is alive and well, the power of an older person is so great that their young victims often never tell of the horrors that they have endured. There is also a pedophile enhancement movement, with confessed pedophiles insisting that their behavior is not wrong or immoral. Organizations dedicated to the social acceptance of sex with children are not new, yet have had a large upstart in membership since the early 1970's(Charon, 1979).
Because of the extreme sensitivity of the subject, research in this field is quite underdeveloped. Researchers have even had trouble in agreeing what to call the phenomenon. Much research on the victims has dubbed the act as child sexual abuse, most research on the offenders has labeled it as child molesting or pedophilia. The term pedophilia has some utility since it suggests a predisposition for the act separate from the act itself. The ambiguity of this term however, is what causes confusion. Pedophilia can mean child sexual abuse ranging from an arousal to children with no or little action, to sexual penetration of the child. For the purposes of this paper the terms pedophilia, child sexual abuse, and child molestation will be used interchangeably.
This paper will focus on the possible causes of child sexual abuse. It will examine several etiologies of pedophiles as suggested by researchers. To reduce this behavior in offenders, we must first attempt to gain an understanding of WHY? This question has no easy answer, and the researchers in this field have found very little to agree upon. There is is however, common ground which may enable us to combine theories into a workable start to a solution of the "unspeakable crime".
Pedophiles can be classified into different categories by several issues, the most common of which are causation, and victim-relationship. Using different classifications to isolate pedophiliac behavior can help us to understand this behavior and begin to find methods in which it may be contained.
Classification of Pedophiles
Pedophile classification is a hotly debated topic that varies significantly in it's origins. There are a few standards however, pedophiles can be separated by those who sexually abuse members of there own family or step- families, and those who abuse non-family members(Langevin, 1983). Even this simple distinction is not always accurate though, often familial offenders have previously offended non-family members(Hunter, 1990). Some common causes of pedophilia have found much popular and scholarly support, and these etiologies can give a general profile of some of the origins of child sexual abuse. While the names of this etiologies vary greatly, the descriptions of each remain essentially intact.
Conditioned Response Theory
Some researchers have maintained that the pedophile becomes conditioned to respond to young, sexually under-developed bodies. It has been suggested that boys begin masturbating to fantasies that involve sexually immature bodies, and...