Toronto Metropolitan University
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Hebephilic Sexual Interests In Sexual Offenders

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posted on 2021-05-23, 12:46 authored by Skye Stephens
Hebephilia refers to a sexual interest for pubescent children in Tanner Stage 2 or 3 of sexual development (i.e., early stages of secondary sex development; Blanchard, Lykins, et al., 2009). Hebephilia was recently proposed as a standalone diagnosis, alongside pedophilia, in the main diagnostic manual used by clinicians in Canada and the United States to diagnose mental health disorders, which ignited considerable controversy in the field. The dissertation examined the validity of hebephilia as a construct through three interrelated studies utilizing a large sample of sexual offenders from a Sexual Behaviours Clinic (n = 2,238). Study 1 examined the convergent validity of hebephilia in a sample of admitters and deniers. There was convergence among self-report, sexual behaviour, and sexual arousal indicators of hebephilia. Further, there was considerable overlap between pedophilia (i.e., sexual interest in prepubescent children) and hebephilia. Study 2 and Study 3 examined the association between hebephilia and sexual offending. Hebephilia is arguably most pertinent to furthering our understanding of sexual offending against children, as one could not act on this sexual interest legally without committing a sexual offence against a child. Study 2 examined concurrent validity by examining the role of hebephilia in sexual victim choice. Similar to pedophilia, hebephilia was associated with a greater number of victims under the age of 15. Further, hebephilia was associated with an increased likelihood of victim age polymorphism (i.e., having victims in other age ranges). Finally, Study 3 examined a subsample of offenders assessed at the Sexual Behaviours Clinic (n = 656) whose criminal records were coded and analyzed in order to assess the predictive validity of hebephilia. Both pedophilia and hebephilia were associated with an increased likelihood of sexual non-contact recidivism, after controlling for time at risk. Based on their high degree of overlap and similar correlates, the major conclusion of this dissertation is that pedophilia and hebephilia are more similar than they are different. Results are discussed within the context of the debate on whether hebephilia is a mental health disorder and the implications for the assessment and risk management of sexual offenders.





  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Psychology

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Dissertation