April 29, 2010

"Hebephilia: Quintessence of Diagnostic Pretextuality"

New from Behavioral Sciences & the Law ...

I never set out to become an expert in this terra incognita. But, alas, here I am. Despite my mixed feelings, I am excited to announce that Behavioral Sciences & the Law has just published my research article deconstructing this pseudoscientific construct. Here is the abstract:
Hebephilia is an archaic term used to describe adult sexual attraction to adolescents. Prior to the advent of contemporary sexually violent predator laws, the term was not found in any dictionary or formal diagnostic system. Overnight, it is on the fast track toward recognition as a psychiatric condition meriting inclusion in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This article traces the sudden emergence and popularity of hebephilia to pressure from the legal arena and, specifically, to the legal mandate of a serious mental abnormality for civil commitment of sex offenders. Hebephilia is proposed as a quintessential example of pretextuality, in which special interests promote a pseudoscientific construct that furthers an implicit, instrumental goal. Inherent problems with the construct's reliability and validity are discussed. A warning is issued about unintended consequences if hebephilia or its relative, pedohebephilia, make their way into the DSM-5, due out in 2013.
After providing the history and scientific status of hebephilia, I conclude:
Significant unintended consequences are likely if novel syndromes of primary benefit to the sex offender commitment industry are incorporated into the upcoming edition of the DSM. First, at a time of mounting controversy over partisan influence and lack of scientific rigor in the DSM diagnostic system, critics will seize on this as a glaring example of arbitrary and unscientific use of psychiatric diagnosis in the service of a pragmatic goal. This could have the paradoxical effect of reducing the scientific credibility of the DSM and the fields of psychiatry and psychology more broadly. In the forensic arena, where the diagnosis will most often be invoked, it may paradoxically invigorate defense challenges on the grounds that psychiatry is being deployed in a pretextual manner. In the end, hebephilia will come to haunt not only those who are civilly committed on pretextual grounds, but the entire mental health field, for years to come.
Links to more articles on this topic can be found on my HEBEPHILIA RESOURCES PAGE; my blog essay from 2007 on the "Invasion of the Hebephile Hunters" is HERE.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations. I'm even familiar with 2 of the 5 words in the title of the paper!

Neuroskeptic said...

I was struck with hebephilia at about age 13. So did everyone else my age. So did every other adolescent in human history. It's a massive health problem!

Yohn said...

I hope you are right Karen when it comes to lowering the credibility of the DSM, but if the fiasco with homosexuality or the abysmal failure in the Rind controversy didn't do it, then I have little faith that this will.

Anonymous said...

Any possibility of posting the full text of the article? I am working on a (court) case involving a similarly pretextual diagnosis and would like to review but do not have a Wiley account.


Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

Sorry, that would be a copyright violation. You can contact me directly if you would like.