Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Parents of children with disabilities, Sex instruction for people with mental disabilities, Parent and teenager, Teenagers with mental disabilities-Sexual behavior, People with mental disabilities-Sexual behavior, Disability, Parenting, Sex, Sexuality, Sexual development, Parent and adult child


This interpretative phenomenological analysis explores parents' experiences navigating issues of sex and sexuality with their teenage and young adult children with intellectual disabilities. The purpose of the study was to examine parents' perceptions of the sexual knowledge and sexual identity development of their children, as well as provide a glimpse into their experiences as parents navigating these issues. Six parents of individuals ages 16-25 with an intellectual disability diagnosis were interviewed via semi-structured interviews. Parents were asked to speak about their children's sexual development as well as the role they have played as parents in fostering that development. Parents shared diverse stories about their children, revealing that they perceive their children as having varying levels of sexual knowledge, interest, and experience. Parents also spoke to their personal worries, hopes, struggles, and triumphs in supporting their children and themselves. Though each story was unique, common themes emerged across interviews around issues of their children's sexual interest and disinterest, sexual knowledge and lack of knowledge, and the level of sexual experience in their children. Emergent themes among parents' roles in navigating these issues included concerns about their children's safety in sexual situations, the need to take an active and realistic stance around supporting their children, and the use of other parents of children with intellectual disabilities as support networks.




iii, 62 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)-Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2011. Includes bibliographical references (p. 52-56)