Pedophilia is an ongoing sexual attraction to pre-pubertal children. It is considered a paraphilia, a condition in which a person's sexual arousal and gratification depend on fantasizing about and engaging in sexual behavior that is atypical and extreme. Pedophilia is defined as recurrent and intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children—generally age 13 years or younger—over a period of at least six months. Pedophiles are more often men and can be attracted to either or both sexes. How well they relate to adults of the same or opposite sex varies.
Pedophilic disorder can be diagnosed in people who are willing to disclose this paraphilia, as well as in people who deny any sexual attraction to children but demonstrate objective evidence of pedophilia. For the condition to be diagnosed, an individual must either act on their sexual urges or experience significant distress or interpersonal difficulty as a result of their urges or fantasies. Without these two criteria, a person may have a pedophilic sexual orientation but not pedophilic disorder.
The prevalence of pedophilic disorder is unknown, but the highest possible prevalence in the male population is theorized to be approximately three to five percent. The prevalence in the female population is thought to be a small fraction of the prevalence in males.
An estimated 20 percent of American children have been sexually molested, making pedophilia a common paraphilia. Offenders are usually family friends or relatives. Types of activities vary and may include just looking at a child or undressing and touching a child. However, acts often involve oral sex or touching of genitals of the child or the offender. Studies suggest that children who feel uncared for or lonely may be at higher risk for sexual abuse.