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Hebephilia refers to an adult's sexual preference for pubescent youths; the term was introduced by Glueck (1955). It differs from ephebophilia, which refers to the erotic interest in individuals in mid- to late adolescence, and from pedophilia, which refers to the erotic interest in 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.
As with sexual preference in general, it is not known what causes someone to be sexually interested in pubescent children rather than in adults.
A team of Canadian sexologists 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 (with pedophiles scoring the lowest), memory test scores (with pedophiles scoring the lowest), rates of non-right-handedness, rates of school grade failures over and above the IQ differences (with pedophiles having the most frequent grade failures), rates of having suffered head injuries in childhood (with pedophiles having the highest rates of injuries), and physical height.
Prevalence of hebephilia versus pedophilia
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 pubescent children than in prepubescent children.
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- Cantor, J. M., Kuban, M. E., Blak, T., Klassen, P. E., Dickey, R., & Blanchard, R. (2007). Physical height in pedophilia and hebephilia. Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment, 19, 395–407.
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