Overview Program Proceedings Reading List


Pedophilia, Minor-Attracted Persons, and the DSM: Issues and Controversies

Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Baltimore, MD

This day-long symposium facilitated the exchange of ideas among researchers, scholars, mental health practitioners, and minor-attracted persons regarding the entry for pedophilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. The symposium addressed critical issues in the following areas:

Scientific and philosophical issues related to the DSM entry on pedophilia and/or hebephilia
Effects of the DSM entry on stigma, availability of mental health services, and research
Ways in which minor-attracted persons can be involved in the DSM-5 revision process

It is crucial that the DSM be based on the most accurate and complete scientific information available, and on careful consideration of effects on the welfare of patients and society. This is especially true for the DSM entry on pedophilia; it has an enormous impact on the beliefs and practices of mental health professionals, the criminal justice system, the media, and the public. It also has a profound effect on adults and teenagers who are emotionally and sexually attracted to children or adolescents, on the availability of mental health services for them, and on relevant research.

The revision of DSM underway at the time of the symposium provided both the opportunity and the necessity to address fundamental issues surrounding the DSM entry for pedophilia. Numerous unresolved issues have been raised by scholars, researchers, and minor-attracted people. Controversy has arisen over scientific issues (e.g., the setting of diagnostic threshholds, the representativeness of forensic samples), philosophical issues (e.g., the definition of paraphilia, the nature of disorder, and whether hebephilia should be considered a disorder), and consequences of the DSM entry (e.g., its use in civil commitment hearings, its effects on stigma).

This symposium faciliated the interaction necessary for these issues to be addressed. The APA emphasized that DSM revisions should involve the interaction of researchers from “diverse perspectives, disciplines, and areas of expertise” and be “sensitive to the needs of clinicians and their patients.” Representatives from all of these groups played important roles at this symposium.

Social workers and psychologists who attended received 6.0 continuting education units (CEUs).