What is Pedophobia?

Pedophobia, also spelled “paedophobia”, is the intense and irrational fear of children, including babies. Negative childhood experiences are often the basis for this fear and phobics commonly have a low tolerance for ill-behaved or noisy children.  In extreme cases, any encounter with children (or even the prospect of running into children) can induce anxiety attacks.

Left untreated, pedophobia may lead to social isolation and loneliness. As a pedophobe takes care to avoid situations or discussions involving children, they may end up isolating themselves from important family or social events. Other mood or anxiety disorders may be involved.

While many people have a general or understandable reticence toward children due to their rambunctious nature, pedophobia is an extreme and irrational fear that causes physical symptoms that worsen if left untreated. If there is a lack of understanding of the phobic’s true condition, a phobic’s friends and family may be hurt or offended by the phobic’s aversion or fear of their children.

Pedophobia may originate from an inherent mistrust of children and adolescents. A mid-20th century concern and study of child psychology resulted in a slew of Hollywood films and novels dedicated to the theme of children being disobedient, unholy, bad, and intrinsically evil, like The Omen and The Bad Seed. Ever since, the “evil child” has been a recurring theme in the horror genre. The thought that all children are miscreants, untrustworthy, and capable of vile acts of violence and destruction is an indirect response to the political landscape of the time of its heyday, and the relationship between nature and nurture. Pedophobia is different from a fear of or aversion to teenagers, or Ephebiphobia, although the phobic may suffer from both phobias.

Children’s roles in society have evolved over ages. Today, children enjoy more rights, freedoms, and privileges than ever before. Prior to child labour laws and changing societal perspectives on human rights, children were not seen as intrinsically valuable, and were historically bred to secure lineages, create free labour, and form socio-political alliances through marriages. There may be an argument for pedophobia originating from a collective memory of a time when children were not valued as human beings. There are many global organizations that seek to abolish pedophobia in countries where children are not easily given access to education, healthcare, or even safety. Childhood may not be treated as something to be cherished in all cultures, and there are many nations that continue to exploit children as cheap wage earners and soldiers.

It originates from the Greek word pedo meaning “children”.

If you know someone with pedophobia, do not try to help them overcome their fear by exposing them to children and babies. Only mental health practitioners should provide treatment for their phobia. Despite your best intentions, your attempts may cause further trauma to the phobic, as well as trigger feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, humiliation, and physical symptoms that could be hazardous. An experienced and professional therapist will be able to uncover the underlying cause of the phobic’s fear in order to create a personalized treatment plan for their recovery.

Symptoms of Pedophobia

People with this phobia will be reluctant to hold babies or give them care. Phobics may be cold and aloof with small children in an effort to avoid contact.

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • obsession with the subject of the phobia
  • fear or feelings of losing control
  • avoidance behavior
  • headaches

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Pedophobia

Children who are noisy or ill-behaved may spur a dislike to develop further. A difficult childhood can also evoke a jealousy reaction in the phobic person.

Pedophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (e.g.  “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance.

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odour or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Pedophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Pedophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

As an isolated or specific phobia, pedophobia may be effectively treated by cognitive behavioural therapy. An experienced mental health professional will work with the phobic to discover the underlying cause of their pedophobia in order to develop a personalized treatment program that may involve various forms of therapy, self-help, and medication. Medication should be taken as a last resort, as it won’t treat the phobia, merely the symptoms.

Learn more about phobia treatments

Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It’s a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.