Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 599–612 | Cite as

Parental Perceptions of the Sexuality of Adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities

  • Iris Manor-BinyaminiEmail author
  • Michal Schreiber-Divon
Original Paper


The sexuality of people with disabilities is often conceptualized as asexual. Furthermore, public discourse regards people with disabilities as highly prone to sexual abuse. The few studies that contemplate on parents’ of people with intellectual disability (ID) point of view uncover the parents’ perceptions towards their offspring’s sexuality. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the sexuality of adolescents with ID from their parents perceptions. The study was conducted using a phenomenological approach and included 21 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with parents of adolescents with ID. The interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis. Parents’ perceptions of their children’s sexuality and their involvement concerning sexuality reveal dilemmas and tensions that remain unresolved. Although some parents did tend to treat their children’s sexuality as non-normative and as a source of problems and thus ignored, prevented, and limited their children’s sexual expressions, other parents presented different perspectives, acknowledging the sexuality of adolescents with ID and their right to express it. The findings also reveal a new and exciting insight related to the conceptual space of physical contact between parents and children, which moves between physical expressions of love and care and feelings of prohibited sexuality. Professionals working with people with ID and their families should be allowed to create a professional dialogue that would enable the discussion and clarification of the dilemmas and challenges related to the subject.


Parents Sexuality Adolescents Intellectual disabilities Israel 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Author Iris Manor-Binyamini and Michal Schreiber-Divon declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the Haifa University’s Ethics Committee (reference number 284/17).

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Special EducationUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.Talpiot College of EducationHolonIsrael

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