The prevalence of pedophilia in the general population is not known, but is estimated to be lower than 5% among adult men. “Most sexual offenders against children are male, although female offenders may account for 0.4% to 4% of convicted sexual offenders. On the basis of a range of published reports, McConaghy estimates a 10 to 1 ratio of male-to-female child molesters.” It is believed that the true number of female pedophiles is underrepresented by available estimates, and that reasons for this may include a “societal tendency to dismiss the negative impact of sexual relationships between young boys and adult women, as well as women’s greater access to very young children who cannot report their abuse”, among other explanations.
The term pedophile is commonly used in the mainstream to describe all child sexual abuse offenders, including those who do not meet the clinical diagnosis standards, which is seen as problematic by researchers as most of them distinguish between child molesters and pedophiles. There are motives for child sexual abuse that are unrelated to pedophilia (such as stress, marital problems, or the unavailability of an adult partner). As child sexual abuse is not automatically an indicator that its perpetrator is a pedophile, offenders might be separated into two types: Exclusive (i.e., “true pedophiles”) and non-exclusive (or, in some cases, “non-pedophilic”). According to a U.S. study on 2429 adult male sex offenders who were categorized as “pedophiles”, only 7% identified themselves as exclusive; indicating that many or most child sexual abusers may fall into the non-exclusive category. However, the Mayo Clinic reports perpetrators who meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia offend more often than non-pedophile perpetrators, and with a greater number of victims. They state that approximately 95% of child sexual abuse incidents are committed by the 88% of child molestation offenders who meet the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia. A behavioral analysis report by the FBI states that a “high percentage of acquaintance child molesters are preferential sex offenders who have a true sexual preference for [prepubescent] children (i.e., true pedophiles)”.