Pedophilia and Psychological Profiling


What is a child molester or pedophile?


v     “A slightly older individual who engages in any type of sexual activity with individuals legally defined as children.”

v     “A lover of children.”

v     “Person who has developed a sexual interest in children that ranges from fondling to mutilation and murder.”


o       Specificity is needed for a more accurate ability to aid in investigation.


Two main types of pedophiles


1.      Situational child molesters

a.       Don’t have a true sexual interest in children

b.      Will experiment with children when stress is introduced into life

                                                                          i.      Seen as victim of circumstance

c.       Has the fewest number of victims

d.      Will not limit victims to just children but will also prey upon the elderly, sick, or mentally impaired

e.       Several subtypes (see Table 1)


Table 1. Situational Child Molesters



Morally Indiscriminate

Sexually Indiscriminate


Basic Traits

Poor coping skills

User of people

Sexual experimentation

Social misfit



Why not?


Insecurity and curiosity

Victim criteria


Vulnerability, opportunity

New and different




Lure, force, or manipulation

Involve in existing activity

Exploitation of size advantage

Porn collection


S&M, detective magazines

Highly likely


Adapted from Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis (p. 8), National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Washington, DC, 1985.


                                                                          i.      Regressed child molester

1.      This pedophile has a situational occurrence that impels him to turn to children. This turn is only temporary and will revert back.

2.      Traditionally involved with adults. For example, being married and having a family.

3.      When life stress gets to a regressed offender the children become an outlet. They usually feel more comfortable with children.

4.      Also, they are geographically stable, employed, and may have some substance abuse, and also may have low-self-esteem.

                                                                        ii.      Morally indiscriminate molester

1.      An abuser of all available persons. Children are simply included, but not the overall goal.

2.      Experiments’ sexually, “try-sexual,” that is willing to try or do anything. Such as bondage, tyndarianism (mate-swapping), and triolism (3-partner relationships).

3.      Can involve biological children or children by marriage in the sexual experiments because of their convenience.

                                                                      iii.      Naïve or inadequate molester

1.      Usually suffer from mental disorder that renders them unable to make the distinction between right and wrong. Examples: retardation or senility.

2.      Known throughout the neighborhood for being bizarre or strange.

3.      Loners, not by choice, but because they are not capable of establishing personal relationships with others.

4.      Doesn’t harm children, experiments with holding, fondling, kissing, licking, but not sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex.

5.      Views children as non-threatening and easier to deal with than adults, so they prefer children.

6.      Has a collection of pornography; however, it is not child porn.


2.      Preferential child molesters

a.       Prefer children as the providers of personal and sexual gratification

b.      Seek out children for their needs and wants

c.       Subtypes:

                                                                          i.      Mysoped child molester and killer

1.      Sadist; has made the connection between sexual gratification and personal violence

2.      Usually male

3.      Typically the victim is a stranger to the aggressor

4.      May stalk the child rather than use a form of seduction; may take victim by force using his size as an advantage

5.      Abducts children from playgrounds, schools, shopping centers, and other places children gather

6.      Has no “love” for children; only interested in causing harm and eventual death to a vulnerable victim

7.      Crime is premeditated and ritualized

8.      Example would be Albert Fish

                                                                        ii.      Fixated child molester

1.      Has little or no activity with people his own age, and is usually single and considered immature; uncomfortable around adults

2.      Offender is childlike himself in his lifestyle and behaviors

3.      Likes children for their less demanding ways, easily dominated, and less critical mentalities

4.      “Loves” children and doesn’t want to harm them; courts them and buys gifts as a seduction ploy and slowly becomes intimate with the child

5.      Oral-genital sex is the norm and actual intercourse develops only after a very long period of time has passed


Profiling Child Molester Types (see Table 2)


Table 2. Typology of Child Molesters


Immature Offender

Regressed Offender

Sadistic Offender

Fixated Offender

Harmful to the Child





Aggressive personality





Antisocial personality





Child sexual preference





Knows the child





Intercourse occurs






A.    Three important factors to look at when profiling molesters:

1. Victimization ritual

2. Method of selection

3. Abducting process


Other helpful profiling leads:


v     Geographical stability of the molester

v     Police records

v     Fact that abused children will sometimes abuse as well

v     Never assume sex of offender based on sex of victim




Holmes, R. M., & Holmes, S. T. (2002). Pedophilia and psychological profiling. In R. M. Holmes, & S. T. Holmes, Profiling violent crimes: An investigative tool (3rd ed.) (pp. 158–171). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Addendum: Nonfamily Child Abductors Who Murder Their Victims



Previous Research










Beyer, K. R., & Beasley, J. O. (2003). Nonfamily child abductors who murder their victims: Offender demographics from interviews with incarcerated offenders. In J. H. Campbell & D. DeNevi (Eds.), Profilers: Leading investigators take you inside the criminal mind. (pp. 313–333) Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.


On the Web:


Back to Criminal Psychology Study Group Index