Objectives: To describe the development of romantic relationships and sexual experiences of young adults with cerebral palsy (CP) and the physical and emotional obstacles they experience with sexuality. Regarding the ICF domains we investigated whether this development is associated with demographic and physical characteristics, peer group activities and dating and psychological and environmental factors. We compared the romantic relationships and sexual experiences of this group with an age-appropriate Dutch reference population. Design: Prospective longitudinal study with three biannual assessments. Setting: Eight rehabilitation centers and departments in the southwestern regions of the Netherlands. Participants: Young adults (N=103, 61 men, 42 women) with CP without cognitive disabilities, ranging from 16 to 20 years old at the first assessment, 82% Gross Motor Function Classification System level I-II. Interventions: Not applicable. Main outcome measures: sexual interest, romantic relationships and sexual activity. Results: During the four years, the sexual experience of the participants increased significantly for all the sexual milestones evaluated. Compared with an age-appropriate Dutch reference population, young adults with CP participated at a lower level in romantic relationships and sexual activities, but had an equal sexual interest at the final assessment. Peer group activities and dating favored development of romantic relationships and a sexual career. Age and gross motor functioning explained 20% of the variance in experience with intercourse. In addition, self-efficacy, self-esteem, sexual esteem and perceived attractiveness contributed significantly to having current romantic relationships and to intercourse experience. Conclusions: Young ambulatory adults with CP had comparable sexual interests and they had increasing experiences with romantic relationships and sexual activities during the transition from late adolescence to young adulthood. Social participation and aspects of a positive self image were positively associated with romantic relationships and sexual experiences.

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With financial support from the Children’s Fund Adriaanstichting (KFA grant number 01.08.06), the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development and the National Rehabilitation Fund (ZonMw/NRF grant number 1435.0024), Johanna Children’s Fund, Children’s Fund Adriaanstichting, (JKF Number 07.02.28- 2007/0042) and from the Fund for Scientific Research on Sexuality.
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam
H.J. Stam (Henk) , P.T. Cohen-Kettenis (Peggy)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Wiegerink, D. (2010, November 17). Romantic Relationships and and Sexual Experiences of Adolescents and Young Adults with Cerebral Palsy. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/22503