A study from the University of Windsor, Canada, suggests that paedophiles are more likely to have certain facial features and characteristics.
Some 140 participants were analysed – all of which showed signs of paedophilic tendencies. The researchers said they found paedophiles were more likely to have minor superficial irregularities.
This included non-detached earlobes, malformed ears and a high or steepled palate – the roof of the mouth. There was also an increased chance that they were left-handed. The study lends support to the theory that paedophilia is a biological issue that can create minor deformities in appearance.
The research, which was published in the Archives Of Sexual Behaviour journal, states that such features would develop in the early stages of creation and could be a result of the mother's exposure to drugs, alcohol or nutritional deficiencies.
Study leader Fiona Dyshniku says "Evidence is steadily accumulating to support a neurodevelopmental basis of paedophilia. If we find that paedophilia has a biological basis, with a very early, even prenatal onset, this will influence and hopefully improve methods of treatment for this group."
Rachel Fazio, clinical neuropsychologist and co-author of the study, added: "If we know more about the etiology of an injurious behaviour, we can create more effective treatments and look toward prevention.
"For years, it was thought that child molestation was somewhat of a learned behaviour, potentially from the abusers having been sexually abused themselves as children. While this may be a factor in some cases, this is not the case in those with genuine paedophilia."