American Psychiatric Association Reclassifies Pedophilia, Backtracks

The American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) decision to once again reclassify pedophilia has led to further concerns that the professional organization is attempting to legitimize the disorder, paving the way for its defense and the recommendation of removal of age-of-consent laws.

In a press release Friday, Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit organization that promotes the causes of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life, and the family observed that in its newly published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), APA “changed the classification of pedophilia from a ‘disorder’ to a ‘sexual orientation,’ but, following the public outcry, APA released a statement that it was a mistake.”

APA, Liberty Counsel noted, now states “sexual orientation” is an error and should read instead, “sexual interest.”

On Thursday, APA released a statement regarding what it referred to as a “text error” in DSM-5:

In the case of pedophilic disorder, the diagnostic criteria essentially remained the same as in DSM-IV-TR. Only the disorder name was changed from “pedophilia” to “pedophilic disorder” to maintain consistency with the chapter’s other disorder listings.

“Sexual orientation” is not a term used in the diagnostic criteria for pedophilic disorder and its use in the DSM-5 text discussion is an error and should read “sexual interest.” In fact, APA considers pedophilic disorder a “paraphilia,” not a “sexual orientation.” This error will be corrected in the electronic version of DSM-5 and the next printing of the manual.

APA stands firmly behind efforts to criminally prosecute those who sexually abuse and exploit children and adolescents. We also support continued efforts to develop treatments for those with pedophilic disorder with the goal of preventing future acts of abuse.

Liberty Counsel cited APA’s statement upon the release of the original DSM-5 and the fact that the new publication “marked the end of more than a decade’s journey in revising the criteria for the diagnosis and classification of mental disorders.” APA said that the revision was done with collaboration from “professionals from the mental health and medical communities, patients and their families, and members of the public.”

“Clearly, if reclassifying pedophilia was merely an ‘error,’ it would have been caught in the ‘decade’s journey,’” said Mat Staver, Founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Whether it is classified a ‘sexual orientation’ or a ‘sexual interest,’ any effort to legitimize pedophilia will provide pederasts with all the arguments they need to remove age of consent laws, and children will suffer.”

In its statement, Liberty Counsel noted the changes APA made to the diagnostic category of pedophilia over the years:

  • In DSM-III, APA said that one who acted upon one’s sexual attraction to children was a pedophile.
  • In DSM-IV, APA changed its criteria, stating that pedophilia was only a disorder if it “caused clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning.” 
  • The Rind study was published, finding that man-boy “consensual” relationships were not necessarily harmful.
  • Subsequent to the public outcry related to the Rind study, APA said moral values trumped the scientific study.
  • In the original printing of DSM-5, “pedophilia” was changed to a “sexual orientation,” but another public outcry led APA to admit an “error” that will be corrected in “the next printing of the manual.”

“The DSM-5 has been under consideration for ten years. It is hard to accept that its publication was a mistake or an error. It is more likely that the public outcry prompted the APA’s recent press statement,” said Liberty Counsel.

Staver said, “The APA has lost credibility with this recent blunder over the classification for pedophilia. The APA has become co-opted by a political agenda.”

“The implications of reclassifying natural law, whether it be for same-sex marriage or adult-children relationships, are far-reaching,” he concluded.

Interestingly, APA has also been severely criticized by Allen Frances, M.D., the psychiatrist who supervised the publication of DSM-IV. Though Frances may have himself contributed to the classification “controversies,” his primary criticism of DSM-5 has been that it creates even more mental health disorder categories, and, consequently, an environment in which an increased number of human behaviors are open to the potential of being declared deviant.

“It is a sure sign of excess that 25% of us reportedly qualify for a mental disorder and that 20% are on psychiatric medication,” Frances wrote in June. “Unless checked, DSM-5 will open the floodgates and may turn current diagnostic inflation into future hyperinflation.”

Frances’ concern with some diagnostic categories such as those in the arena of sexual deviance is that, put simply, they are “pseudo-diagnoses” and not true “mental disorders.”

“There is no infallible definition guiding what should, and what should not, be included in the official manual of mental disorders,” Frances wrote in 2010 in Psychiatric Times. APA’s provision of increasing numbers of these “pseudo-diagnoses” in the area of sexual deviance, he stated, “has already contributed significantly to a grave misuse of psychiatry by the legal system in the handling of sexually violent predators – a misuse much opposed by the APA in a task force report and amicus brief to the Supreme Court.”

Frances argued that such diagnostic constructs “also medicalize undesirable sexual behavior and thereby provide a psychiatric excuse helpful to those who are attempting to evade personal responsibility.”


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