DSM-IV and Pedophilia: What Did the APA Do?

By Alan P. Medinger

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Commentary
In September, 1994 we reported that the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) had changed the criteria for defining pedophilia, sexual sadism, voyeurism, exhibitionism, etc. as treatable disorders only if the individual's behavior or desires "cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning." This was consistent with what the APA had done in seeking to legitimize homosexuality in 1973 when similar wording was applied to homosexuality.

I had picked this information up, as I recall, from the Lambda Report, published by Peter LaBarbara. We examined both DSM-III-R and DSM-IV to verify that this was true.

I was amazed that others were not picking up on this. The DSM change on homosexuality had caused a tremendous uproar, with many psychiatrists fighting furiously against the change. The change with respect to pedophilia seemed to just slide through.

A few people have started to pick up on the change. A publication in Hawaii picked up our Regeneration News article, and it was, in turn, picked up by the American Family Association Journal. Both of these publications picked up a variation on our title, "Pedophilia No Longer a Disorder, Psychiatric Association Decides." The APA objected strongly to this. They may have a point -- but only in an Alice-in-Wonderland sense. Technically, pedophilia is still a disorder, but they changed the definition of the disorder so radically that what the average person -- and I believe the average practitioner -- would define as pedophilia is no longer a disorder.

The fact remains that what the American Psychiatric Association has stated is that an adult may engage in sex with a nine-year-old child, and if the adult is not bothered by what he is doing, then he has no reason to seek professional help. Perhaps the reason why this has not caused the uproar that the redefinition of homosexuality caused is that people not involved with APA tend not to take the organization very seriously any more.

Copyright © 1995 Alan P. Medinger. All rights reserved. Posted on the web with permission.