An Investigation into Parental Attitudes about Sexuality and Children with Intellectual Disabilities

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Haynes, Aaron
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People with intellectual disabilities (id) living in Canada traditionally experience unique challenges and roadblocks as they seek to explore their sexuality. Often, they have a difficult time forming and maintaining romantic relationships because of lack of opportunity or education. This paper investigates the following question: What are the attitudes and beliefs of parents of children with intellectual disabilities that have a negative influence on the capacity of their children to explore and develop sexual identities? In law and in society, it is generally accepted that people with intellectual disabilities deserve the same rights and freedoms as any other person. It is also clear that people with intellectual disabilities have sexual and romantic thoughts and feelings. However, marriage and child bearing for people with id is infrequent and unusual. Parental attitudes are one factor that determines the opportunities and experiences of people with id. It is these initial understandings that help me in the development of this study. First, I will be investigating the problem of attitudes through a study of current peer reviewed literature. Then, I will develop a qualitative research study designed to identify and classify attitudes of parents about the sexuality of their children with intellectual disabilities. In this paper, I will present and explain the following conclusions. Parents want their children to have meaningful relationships with others, but they fear the possibility of abuse towards their children. Furthermore, parents are concerned about the ability and appropriateness of their children having children. At the same time, parents also feel unprepared to offer sexual health guidance to their children with intellectual disabilities. These potentially harmful attitudes are based on fear and ignorance. The problem is exacerbated by feelings of isolation and overwhelming stress. As a result of these findings and their negative implications, I recommend continued tracking of parental attitudes in order to develop appropriate interventions and supports for parents and children. In addition, the tracking will help educational professionals to observe any general changes of attitude over time.
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