Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of pedophile


  1. A person afflicted with "pedophilia", a sexual perversion in which children are preferred as sexual partner.

Definition of pedophile


    From pedo- +‎ -phile, after Ancient Greek παιδόφιλος (paidophilos) (from πα-ς (pais, “boy, child”) and φιλέω (phileō, “I love”)).


  • (UK) IPA: /ˈpiːdəfaɪl/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈpɛdəfaɪl/


pedophile (plural pedophiles)

  1. A an adult or late teenager who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children.

    * 1982, National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Criminal Justice Abstracts, volume 14‎, page 253
    Apart from his sexual behavior, the pedophile is typically law abiding.

    * 1986, Patrick B. McGuigan & Jon S. Pascale, Crime and Punishment in Modern America‎, page 109
    The pedophile, a particular type of child molester, is an adult whose conscious sexual interests and overt sexual behavior are directly either partially or exclusively toward children.

Usage notes

  • The term pedophile is regularly used in the media to describe adults who engage in sexual activity with children.

Further reading

As a medical diagnosis, pedophilia (or paedophilia) is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or late adolescents (persons age 16 or older) typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (generally age 13 years or younger, though onset of puberty may vary). The child must be at least five years younger in the case of adolescent pedophiles (16 or older) to be termed pedophilia. The term has a range of definitions, as found in psychiatry, psychology, the vernacular, and law enforcement.

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) defines pedophilia as a "disorder of adult personality and behaviour" in which there is a sexual preference for children of prepubertal or early pubertal age. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), pedophilia is a paraphilia in which a person has intense and recurrent sexual urges towards and fantasies about prepubescent children and on which feelings they have either acted or which cause distress or interpersonal difficulty. The current DSM-5 draft proposes to add hebephilia to the diagnostic criteria, and consequently to rename it to pedohebephilic disorder.

In popular usage, pedophilia means any sexual interest in children or the act of child sexual abuse, often termed "pedophilic behavior." For example, The American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary states, "Pedophilia is the act or fantasy on the part of an adult of engaging in sexual activity with a child or children." This common use application also extends to the sexual interest in and abuse of pubescent or post-pubescent minors. Researchers recommend that these imprecise uses be avoided; people who commit child sexual abuse commonly exhibit the disorder, but some offenders do not meet the clinical diagnosis standards for pedophilia, which only pertain to prepubescents. Additionally, not all pedophiles actually commit such abuse.

In law and forensic psychology

- Definitions

In law enforcement circles, the term "pedophile" is sometimes used in a broad manner to encompass a person who commits one or more sexually-based crimes that relate to legally underage victims. These crimes may include child sexual abuse, statutory rape, offenses involving child pornography, child grooming, stalking, and indecent exposure. One unit of the United Kingdom's Child Abuse Investigation Command is known as the "Paedophile Unit" and specializes in online investigations and enforcement work. Some forensic science texts, such as Holmes (2008) use the term to refer to a class of psychological offender typologies that target child victims, even when such children are not the primary sexual interest of the offender. The FBI, however, makes a point of acknowledging preferential sex offenders who have a true sexual preference for prepubescent children.

- Civil commitment

In the United States, following Kansas v. Hendricks, sex offenders that can be diagnosed with certain mental disorders, including pedophilia, can be subject to indefinite civil commitment. In Kansas v. Hendricks, the US Supreme Court upheld as constitutional a Kansas law, the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), under which Hendricks, a pedophile, was found to have a "mental abnormality" defined as a "congenital or acquired condition affecting the emotional or volitional capacity which predisposes the person to commit sexually violent offenses to the degree that such person is a menace to the health and safety of others," which allowed the State to confine Hendricks indefinitely irrespective of whether the State provided any treatment to Hendricks. In United States v. Comstock, this type of indefinite confinement was upheld for someone previously convicted on child pornography charges; this time a federal law was involved-the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act. The Walsh Act does not require a conviction on a sex offense charge, but only that the person be a federal prisoner, and one who "has engaged or attempted to engage in sexually violent conduct or child molestation and who is sexually dangerous to others," and who "would have serious difficulty in refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation if released". Neither sexually violent conduct nor child molestation is defined by the Act.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     lex causae
2.     lex situs
3.     landed property
4.     lex fori
5.     lex loci celebrationis
6.     AORO
7.     lex loci delicti commissi
8.     prejudice
9.     adjudication order
10.     Miranda warning