Importance of peers and dating in the development of romantic relationships and sexual activity of young adults with cerebral palsy
Aim: The aim of this study was to describe the peer group activities, romantic relationships, and sexual activity and their interrelations of young adults with cerebral palsy (CP). Method: A cross-sectional study was performed in 87 participants (51 males, 36 females; mean age 20y 4mo, SD 1y 3mo range age 18-22y) without cognitive disabilities. Ninety-four per cent had spastic CP and 49% unilateral CP, while 78% were classified at Gross Motor Function Classification System level I and 84% at Manual Ability Classification System level I. Peer group activities, dating, romantic relationships, and sexual activity were assessed with an interview and questionnaire. Associations were analysed using logistic regression analyses. Results: The study cohort reported having friends and participating in activities with peers; 71% had experience of dating, 23% had a current romantic relationship, and 38% had experience of intercourse. Young adults with CP had less experience in romantic and sexual relationships than an age-appropriate Dutch reference population. Peer group activities and dating favoured development of romantic relationships and sexual activity. Older age was associated with greater sexual activity. Motor functioning, education level, and gender did not correlate with romantic relationships or sexual activity. Interpretation: Being involved in peer group activities and creating a context to arrange dates seems relevant for young adults with CP to develop romantic relationships and sexual activity.