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What does sexual interest in children mean?

Sexual interest in children can refer to thinking about children sexually, sexual fantasies or being sexually aroused by children.

  • Paedophilia refers to a person over the age of 16 being sexually attracted to children who have not yet reached puberty.
  • Hebephilia refers to sexual desire directed at children who have just reached puberty and who are considerably younger than the person themselves.
  • Ephebophilia refers to sexual interest in adolescents during puberty or who have just passed puberty and are considerably younger than the person themselves.

People who are sexually interested in children do not always act on their tendencies. The interest may remain at the level of mental images and fantasies.

Paedophilic interest

Paedophilic interest may be primary or fixed paedophilia. In this case, the person experiences primary and permanent sexual interest in children under the age of puberty. The person may still have sexual relations with persons aged 16 and over. 

Secondary paedophilic interest, or regressive paedophilia, occurs when a person's sexual desires are temporarily directed at a child, for example, in a stressful life situation. Nonetheless, the person is primarily and permanently sexually interested in persons aged 16 and over.

When is it an illness?

If the desire to engage in sexual activity with a prepubescent child is prevalent and persistent, it may constitute a paedophilic disorder which is defined as a disease. Its official disease classifications are ICD-10 and F65:4.

A prerequisite for diagnosis is that the interest has lasted for more than six months. The interest has also either caused harm to the person himself or they have committed a crime.

What causes paedophilic interest?

Current research has not identified an unambiguous reason for sexual interest that is primarily directed at children. It is influenced by many different factors.

According to current data, various environmental factors constitute 90% of the background.

Genetic factors that contribute to the disorder are also actively studied. Latest research has identified some neurological abnormalities in the brain. However, no single genetic connection has been identified.