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Hebephilia refers to a primary or exclusive sexual interest in individuals in the early years of puberty (generally ages 11–14, though onset of puberty may vary). Girls typically begin the process of puberty at age 10 or 11; boys at age 11 or 12. Hebephilia differs from ephebophilia, which refers to the sexual preference for individuals in later adolescence, and from pedophilia, which refers to the sexual preference for prepubescent children. While individuals with a sexual preference for adults (i.e., teleiophiles) may have some sexual interest in pubescent-aged individuals, the term hebephilia is reserved for those who prefer pubescent-aged individuals over adults. The term was introduced by Glueck (1955), who later credited it, without citation, to Paul Benedict.
Debate is ongoing over whether hebephilia is a mental disorder, with Ray Blanchard and a number of his colleagues from CAMH arguing for its inclusion in the DSM-5. The proposal has been criticized by Richard Green, Allen Frances, Michael First (DSM-IV editor), Karen Franklin, Charles Allen Moser, William O'Donohue, and other mental health professionals on various grounds. The current draft of the DSM-5, on which Blanchard serves as Chair of the Paraphilias Sub-Work Group, includes Blanchard's proposal.
As with sexual preference in general, it is not known what causes someone to prefer a pubescent rather than an adult individual for sexual reasons. A number of biological associations have been studied however. A team from CAMH has published a series of research articles comparing biologically relevant characteristics of clinical samples of pedophiles, hebephiles, and teleiophiles (individuals with a sexual preference for adults). In such samples, hebephilic men are midway between pedophilic men and teleiophilic men on average IQ, memory test scores, and rates of school grade failures over and above the IQ differences, with pedophiles scoring the lowest on the first two measures and highest on the third. Hebephiles score midway between pedophiles and teleiophiles in rates of non-right-handedness, rates of having suffered childhood head injuries, and physical height.
The name is based on the Greek goddess of youth Hebe (mythology), a daughter of Zeus and Hera. She is also known as Ganymeda, or in Roman: Juventas. Words such as juvenile are based on that form. The suffix -phil- based on Philia is also Greek, meaning love.
There are clinical and correctional samples of sexual offenders in which hebephilic men outnumber the pedophilic men. Moreover, anonymous surveys of people sexually interested in children more frequently report an erotic interest in pubescents rather than in prepubescents.
In 2008, Ray Blanchard was the lead author of an influential paper proposing the introduction of hebephilia in the DSM-5. The paper, coauthored mostly with colleagues from CAMH and the University of Toronto, triggered a number of reactions, many of them critical on the basis that it pathologizes reproductively valid behavior in order to uphold current social and legal standards. Critics include Richard Green, Michael First (DSM-IV editor), Karen Franklin, and Charles Allen Moser, while others like William O'Donohue argue that the proposal does not go far enough. Clinical psychologist Joseph J. Plaud criticized Blanchard's study for lacking a control group of "normal" men, and other methodological issues, leading him to conclude that "The data do not support the conclusions reached in this article, especially the inclusion of a significant change to the DSM-V". Blanchard replied to these concerns. Franklin maintains a list of publications discussing the new diagnosis.
The proposed DSM-5 replacement for the pedophilia diagnosis, called pedohebophilic disorder, largely reflects the proposal of Blanchard and his colleagues. The naming of the new disorder also reflects the more general distinction proposed between paraphilia and paraphilic disorder in DSM-5.
At the annual meeting of the American Association of Psychiatry and Law (AAPL) a group of forensic psychiatrists working with sex offenders made a symbolic vote on the inclusion of Pedohebephilia in DSM-5, with 2 votes for and 31 against. At the International Association for the Treatment of Sexual Offenders meeting in Oslo another vote was made with 1 vote for and 100 against.
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