There is remarkably little known about child abusers and pedophilia. What little we do know typically comes from abusers who were caught and convicted, not from persons with pedophilia tendencies that choose to not act on those impulses. Regardless, researchers have pieced together a bit about the psychology behind a child sexual abuser.
There are many possible reasons why someone would do the unthinkable – abuse a child. They may suffer from mental illness. Studies have shown that more than half of the sexual abusers have some sort of personality disorder. In particular, they may lack the ability to personalize the victim and may view people as nothing more than objects. In other instances, a sexual abuser may suffer from an inability to control impulses. These types of abusers require instant gratification. Without impulse control, the slightest bit of excitement when around a child may lead them to target the child for instant gratification.
A sexual abuser may suffer from a dependency on drugs and alcohol. Either one makes for a less than clear head and hence, their choices or ability to make choices will be impaired while they are under the influence of drugs. Studies have shown that more than half of all rapists have some sort substance abuse problem. Drugs and alcohol cloud their judgment and hinder their ability to control their actions.
Sexual abusers are not always mentally ill though. Day to day stress may play a part in their acting upon their impulse to abuse children. They may be frustrated trying to raise a child or they may have anger management issues that they have failed to deal with. They may have personal problems such as work issues or marital problems that have pushed them beyond the point where they act rationally. A pedophile that under normal circumstances does not act on his impulses may indeed act out during times of stress.
In some instances, a sexual abuser may have been sexually abused when they were a child creating a “generational cycle” of abuse. In some cases, a sexually abused child is emotionally stunted, meaning their emotional development stalls at the time of their abuse. In other instances, sexual abuse may be a learned response for an adult that was abused as a kid. It’s no surprise that sexual abusers typically come from disordered or dysfunctional families, an environment where proper behavior with children may have never been taught. In other rarer instances, they may have come from families where the mother was overpowering causing the abuser to develop an aversion to adult women and turning their attraction to more passive females or younger females.
In some instances, a sexual abuser may really think like a child. Studies have shown that most sexual abusers have below average IQs when compared to the IQs of other criminals. In many ways, they may think of children as “more on their level” than they would an adult and hence, feel more comfortable having sexual relations with a child. This is further evidenced by the fact that sexual abusers are often single with few friends in their age group. They may be quiet and shy around adults.
And finally, at a most basic level, a sexual abuser may abuse children in order to realize a sense of power and control over another human being. A young child may be all they are physically or mentally capable of controlling.
How a person deals with these issues determines whether or not they will be or become an abuser. Not all people with the problems described above become sexual abusers. In the instances where a person does indeed move into the realm of becoming an abuser, the path to becoming a sexual abuser generally starts small and grows over time. They most likely evolve over time into an abuser rather than becoming a sexual abuser in a single moment.