A proposed typology for paedophilia: a grounded theory analysis of online discourse

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Child sexual abuse (CSA) is a human rights issue of interest to both science and society. Many CSA offenders are paedophiles. It follows that a thorough understanding of paedophilia is apposite. Unfortunately, there is disagreement in the literature about paedophilia. This may be because the group is not homogenous. To address this, studies have attempted to construct typologies. However, these suffered from methodological limitations including participant-dishonesty, difficulty in maintaining participant anonymity, small sample sizes and the tendency of clinicians to influence data. The current study attempts to address these. It examines a population of self-identified paedophiles who operated under a high degree of anonymity on a pair of websites (the “Pedophile Support Community”, and “Hurt 2 the Core”) that were hidden on the “dark internet” and accessible only via the anonymizing web browser “TOR”. The study qualitatively analyses participant discussions. Using the principles of grounded theory, it attempts to describe, compare and contrast the two sites’ users, with a view to identifying taxonomic distinctions. Most members of the first site used the platform to construct an identity, using cognitive distortions, that was more favourable to them than the one imposed by society. This was largely informed by the notion that child sexual abuse needn’t be harmful. Others eschewed child sexual abuse, preferring to satisfy their urges by viewing indecent images of children. These subtypes contrast to those who occupied the second site, who sought to enact both paedophilic and sadistic fantasies. The attitudes and actions of the sites' participants led to the construction of a proposed typology of potential child abusers. A distinction between ‘pedosexuals’ and ‘pedosadists’ is proposed. Whilst both are attracted to children, the latter is specifically aroused on the basis of violence (or thoughts of violence) against children, whilst the former explicitly is not. This distinction has implications for societal responses, vis a vis treatment, legal measures and theory.