Exploring the perspectives of young adults with developmental disabilities about sexuality and sexual health

Journal article


Coulter, Daina, Lynch, Claire and Joosten, Annette V.. (2023). Exploring the perspectives of young adults with developmental disabilities about sexuality and sexual health. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal. 70, p. 380–391. https://doi.org/10.1111/1440-1630.12862
AuthorsCoulter, Daina, Lynch, Claire and Joosten, Annette V.
Abstract

Background
Sexuality is important in everyday lives; it contributes to a sense of self. Everyone has a right to access sexual experiences, form relationships, and obtain sexual health education. There is limited literature from the perspective of people with developmental disabilities about their sexuality and particularly how, or if, societal attitudes influence their sexuality and their opinions about sexual health education. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of young adults with developmental disabilities about their sexuality, their perceptions about how their sexuality was viewed by the community, and about the sexual education that is required and how it should be delivered.

Method
A qualitative interpretative phenomenological approach using a purposive sample was used to explore the perspectives of young adults, aged between 18 and 32 years old with developmental disabilities, to explore their perspectives on their sexuality, societal attitudes, and access to sexual health education. Seven semi-structured interviews were conducted and analysed using an interpretative phenomenological approach.

Results
Five main themes were developed from the data: (1) sexuality is multidimensional and important, (2) the challenges and fear of expressing sexuality, (3) societal views need to change, (4) close support enables sexuality, and (5) sexual health education needs to be individualised.

Conclusion
Participants suggested that sexuality was important to them, and they had the same expectations about sexuality and relationships as many young adults. However, their autonomy and self-determination to set sexuality goals were constrained by societal attitudes. Supportive family and friends enabled opportunities, but they believed the knowledge and attitudes about disability, and about disability and sexuality, of community members, service providers, funders, and educators needed to change to enable increased opportunity to express their sexuality. Participants reported a need for individualised sexual health education provided by professionals with expertise.

Keywordsdevelopmental; disabilities; education; intellectual; occupational therapy; sexual health; sexuality
Year2023
JournalAustralian Occupational Therapy Journal
Journal citation70, p. 380–391
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd
ISSN0045-0766
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/1440-1630.12862
Scopus EID2-s2.0-85147996407
Web address (URL)https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1440-1630.12862
Open accessOpen access
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range380–391
Publisher's version
License
File Access Level
Open
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online13 Feb 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted15 Jan 2023
Deposited26 May 2023
Additional information

© 2023 The Authors.Australian Occupational Therapy Journalpublished by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Occupational Therapy Australia.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providedthe original work is properly cited.

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