Dear members of GirlChat,
From December 2017 to March 2018, we posted a survey on this platform. The first part of the results of this survey about sexual and romantic attraction were published last year, you can find the post about that here https://www.annabelleigh.net/messages/733621.htm. A second part was published recently in the Journal of Sex Research (link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00224499.2021.1948957?journalCode=hjsr20). Due to copyright, we cannot publicly share the pdf of the study, but we can send it to individual members via email. If you’d like to receive a copy, you could e-mail myself via firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Michael Seto at email@example.com or contact us via ResearchGate.
Below, is a summary of the study. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
To all those who participated, thank you again for your participation.
Frederica Martijn, Kelly Babchishin, Lesleigh Pullman, Kailey Roche, and Michael Seto
Summary of Study “Attraction to Physical and Psychological Features of Children in Child-Attracted Persons”
While there has been a lot of research establishing that people who are attracted to children are attracted to children (e.g., via self-report, or physiological measures), a fundamental question has been relatively unexamined: what is attractive about children? This study is the first study to our knowledge in 40 years that examined what is attractive about children both physically and psychologically.
We examined attraction to physical and psychological features of children 11 or younger. We also examined this attraction along five dimensions:
(1) whether participants were attracted to one age category (11 and younger, i.e., pedophilia) or multiple age categories (11 and younger and 12-14, i.e., pedohebephilia; or, 11 and younger, 12-14, and 15-18, i.e., pedohebe-ephebophilia);
(2) whether participants were exclusively or non-exclusively attracted to children;
(3) whether participants were attracted to boys, girls, or both;
(4) whether participants had fallen in love with a child; and
(5) whether participants reported a history of sexual offending.
We used an online, anonymous survey and asked participants to rate 9 physical and 12 psychological features. Participants could also add other features we did not include.
• The 9 physical features were buttocks, complexion, face shape, height, look of the sex organs, slimness, smooth skin, voice pitch, and weight.
• The 12 psychological features were charm, companionship, curiosity, friendliness, honesty, innocence, lack of inhibition, openness, sense of humor, spontaneity, vitality/enthusiasm, and warmth/affection.
This study included answers from 274 participants. Most participants were younger than 40 (65%), White (86%), had post-secondary education (76%), were employed (full or part time; 65%), and were not in a relationship (77%; single, separated, divorced, widowed, or never been in a relationship).
Ratings for all physical features were high on average, around a 4 out of a 5-point scale. Physical features from highest to lowest in ratings were smooth skin, face shape, slimness, buttocks, complexion, voice pitch, look of the sex organs, weight, and height. There was little difference for physical attraction ratings across the dimensions.
Ratings for psychological features were also at around 4 out of a 5-point scale on average. Highest to lowest ratings of psychological features were warmth/affection, curiosity, vitality/enthusiasm, friendliness, openness, companionship, charm, spontaneity, honesty, sense of humor, innocence, and lack of inhibition.
There was little difference for physical attraction ratings across the dimensions. The exception was that participants who had fallen in love with a child rated psychological features higher than participants who had not fallen in love with a child.
Because we also asked participants to add additional features we missed, we conducted a qualitative analysis of these suggestions.
There were 352 additional physical suggestions by 136 participants. These could be classified in six themes: face and head (e.g., eyes, mouth, hair); body parts (e.g., limbs, belly, feet); children’s bodies (e.g., absence/development of breasts, absence of facial, body, or pubic hair); body shape (e.g., chubbiness, muscularity); body movement (e.g., smile, gait), and “other” (accessories, “everything”, and smell).
There were fewer psychological suggestions, namely 94 by 44 participants. Here we found five themes. The first was personality, and included boldness (attraction to bratty, dominant, and confident children), inventiveness (attraction to inventiveness, intelligence, and creativity), sensitivity (attraction to shyness, sensitivity, and kindness), and playfulness (children being playful, energetic, and adventurous). Another theme was role-of-importance in child’s life, which included vulnerability, i.e., wanting to take care of vulnerable or dependable children, and the other was teachability, describing wanting to play a teacher or mentor-like role in children’s lives. Another theme was harmlessness, in which participants described children as harmless, innocent, and non-judgmental. There was also the theme children’s sexuality, which included descriptions of children being sexual or interested in sex. The last theme was adult-comparisons, which both included being attracted to adult-like qualities, as well as being attracted to children because they were opposite of adults.
Overall, attraction to children, both physically and psychologically, was high and did not differ substantially between attraction dimensions (age categories, exclusivity, gender attraction, sexual offense history). This might have to do with that there is a difference between attraction between adults and children (e.g., difference in height or physical development), and attraction within children (e.g., being attracted to specific characteristics in children, such as chubbiness or baby teeth). We advise future studies to use clear descriptions of attractive characteristics and clearly delineate between general and child-specific features.
Participants who had fallen in love with a child reported higher attraction to psychological features than participants who had not fallen in love with a child. This finding is consistent with the idea that physical features are more linked to sexual attraction, and psychological features are more linked to romantic attraction.
A better understanding of attraction to children will help provide evidence-based programs and develop theory. There is still much to be researched around attraction to children. For instance, what happens to sexual and romantic attraction to a child if a child grows older? How do general and personal preferences play a role in attraction to a child? This study indicates that attraction to children is a complex sexual and romantic phenomenon, as we find with the complex construct of sexual orientation for gender.