Young People with Learning Disabilities and the Development of Sexual Relationships


In modern society the needs of young people with learning disabilities to develop sexual relationships is increasingly recognised, and supported in legislation and social policy. The aim of this small scale, exploratory study was to understand whether young people with learning disabilities receive sex education and are given accessible information and support relating to sexualised behaviours. The study gained professional and parental views on this topic, together with those of the young people to understand their future aspirations and the barriers they may face. The research design involved semi-structured interviews with 12 purposively selected respondents including teachers, public health nurses, young people and their parents. Results indicated that this group of young people do receive sex education but that misunderstandings about sex and relationships are still prevalent. Professionals and parents may lack the knowledge and confidence to provide appropriate information in an accessible manner, and for professionals the emphasis is on managing inappropriate sexualised behaviours. When it comes to preparing young people for emotional relationships all those involved in the study struggled with this and the young people’s aspirations differed from those of their care givers. The study concludes that support in this particular area of personal development needs to be developed.

How to Cite

Wright, R., (2011) “Young People with Learning Disabilities and the Development of Sexual Relationships”, Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Research and Practice 8(1). doi:


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Rebecca Wright






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