Should “Hebephilia” Be Considered a Mental Disorder?

The world of forensic psychology is a dynamic one that involves ongoing research and debate regarding the motivations behind crimes, the role of mental illness, and proper place of medical professionals in determining someone’s punishment.  The contributions made by psychologists are not without their run-ins with controversy.  For instance, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is due out in 2013 and workgroups are considering inclusion of a psychiatric diagnosis that is being met with strong resistance.

Hebephilia, or the sexual attraction to pubescent minors, is being discussed as a new mental disorder.  This label would come into play into cases of statutory rape that involve victims between the ages of eleven and fourteen. 

One vocal opponent of this proposed disorder is Dr. Allen Frances, who was chair of the DSM-4 Task Force and who serves as professor emeritus at Duke University.  In a recent blog post published for Psychology Today, Frances asserts that sexual attraction to those who have reached puberty is hard-wired and very common, pointing to popular advertising campaigns and their use of sexualized teenagers in appealing to adults, and that these urges must be controlled.  The feelings remain from a time in our history when people did not live long enough to delay sexual activity past adolescence.  Frances believes that sex with a teenager in today’s society is indeed a heinous crime and such urges must be controlled, but that such an act is not a sign of a mental disorder.

What are your thoughts on defining sex with a child who has reached puberty as a mental disorder

Is this a legitimate addition to our psychological labels, or are we making excuses for a rapist who made a very bad decision?

 
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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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3 Responses to Should “Hebephilia” Be Considered a Mental Disorder?

  1. David Holmes says:

    Everything pleasurable to the human mind can become addictive. Chocolate, cigarettes, computer games, etc. won’t harm anybody but the addicted, Pedophelia and/or hebephilia will harm the victim, and since it is addictive, it cannot be cured. As in alcoholism, it can only be controlled. Since pedophilia and hebephilia are criminal acts, both should be considered mental disorders and, along with incarceration, obtain treatment to develop abstinence.

  2. MARTIN says:

    “pedophilia and hebephilia are criminal acts, both should be considered mental disorders ”

    Do you read what you write? You say that pedophilia and hebephilia are “ACTS” and then you say that they should be considered “MENTAL DISORDERS”. How can a mental disorder be considered a crime? Its not illegal to have a mental disorder. Its not a crime.

    Back in topic, I dont think that hebephilia is a mental disorder, neither pedophilia. Having a rare sexual attraction should never be considered a disorder. It might be illegal to act on it, but not a disorder.

  3. Thank you for your comments. I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about hebephilia in the near future and what they decide if it’s considered a mental disorder.

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