Sexuality in adults with learning disabilities is a subject that has only relatively recently been tackled in the literature. The researchers in this study were interested in sexuality in adolescents, and wanted to look at the attitudes and behaviours of mothers of adolescents and consider whether or not the presence of learning disability might affect this.
They worked with two groups of 30 mothers – one group where the young person had a learning disability and the other matched group where the young person was developing normally.
They found from their interviews that both groups placed importance on dealing with their children’s developing sexuality.
Interestingly, both groups of mothers expressed that they were confident in doing so.
However, the mothers of young people with learning disabilities were more cautious in their attitudes towards contraception, the readiness of their young person to learn about sex and potential decisions about intimate relationships.
In addition, the mothers of young people with learning disabilities expressed a number of concerns about sexual vulnerability in their offspring. When considering the way the topic of sex had been dealt with, the researchers also found that mothers of young people with learning disabilities had spoken about fewer sexual topics with their children and had also begun these discussions when their children were older than in those where the young people did not have a learning disability.
The authors suggest their findings should be used to inform a more sensitive approach to providing support and developing materials to help families deal with the sexual development of their offspring..
Sexuality and Sex Education of Adolescents with Intellectual Disability: Mothers’ Attitudes, Experiences, and Support Needs, Pownall J et al., in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 50, 2, 140-154.