People with intellectual disabilities talk about sexuality: implications for the development of sex education

D. Schaafsma*, G. Kok, J. M. T. Stoffelen, L. M. G. Curfs

*Corresponding author for this work

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Existing sex education programmes have failed in involving people with intellectual disabilities in the development of these programmes. Not involving the target population decreases the likelihood that the sex education programme will be effective. This study was conducted to assess the perspectives of people with intellectual disabilities on several sexuality-related topics. Semi-structured interviews were held with 20 people with intellectual disabilities covering topics such as: sex education, relationships, sex, social media, parenthood and support. The reported frequency of sex education the participants receive is low. Their knowledge regarding sex education is mainly limited to topics such as safe sex, contraception and STI's and tends to be superficial. Additionally, knowledge on safe sex does not always translate to safe sex behaviour. Finally, relationships are important for most participants; mainly because they don't want to be alone. Findings from both this study and literature shows that there seems to be a need for high quality sex education. Topics to consider to include are: online relationships, social media and parenthood. It would also be beneficial to focus on sexuality-related skills. Finally, to increase the effectiveness of a sex education programme, it is advisable that a theory-and evidence-based framework, such as Intervention Mapping, is used for its development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-38
JournalSexuality and Disability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017


  • Sexuality
  • Sex education
  • Intervention development
  • Interviews
  • The Netherlands

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