Women with learning disabilities had limited knowledge of same sex relationships and held traditional gender beliefs


There is limited research into homosexuality and people with learning disabilities (see for example Norah Fry Centre project. What literature there is has identified low levels of knowledge, homophobic attitudes and negative experiences.

The researchers in this study looked at attitudes towards homosexuality and gender role beliefs in a group 27 of women with learning disabilities using three self-report measures.

They found that the women in this group also had limited knowledge about the issues, especially regarding lesbianism. They were also found to hold prejudicial belief and traditional gender beliefs. The latter were associated with more negative attitudes towards homosexuality.

The authors suggest that education focusing on flexibility of gender roles could help break down some of these traditionally held views as well as help to develop more positive attitudes towards homosexuality amongst women with learning disabilities.

Same-Sex Relationships and Women with Intellectual Disabilities, Burns, J &  Davies, D in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 24: 351–360

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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