Standard Article

Intellectually Disabled in Britain: Sexuality and Procreation

  1. Jane McCarthy1,
  2. Valerie Sinason2,
  3. Sheila Hollins3

Published Online: 17 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0005217.pub2



How to Cite

McCarthy, J., Sinason, V. and Hollins, S. 2012. Intellectually Disabled in Britain: Sexuality and Procreation. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    St Andrew's Hospital, Northampton, UK

  2. 2

    Clinic for Dissociative Studies, London, UK

  3. 3

    University of London, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 SEP 2012


Ethical and social issues surround the issue of sexuality and parenting for people with intellectual disabilities. The traumatic history of eugenics is encapsulated in Nazi Germany's description of those with intellectual disability as unworthy of life and the 250 000 children and adults who were gassed but conscious and unconscious wishes to deny sexual and procreative rights to those with an intellectual disability is world-wide and contemporary despite legislative change. However, given the high levels of sexual abuse and exploitation that come from internal and external stigmatisation and trauma the movement towards greater human rights, sexual education and access to psychotherapy heralds new hope for children and adults with an intellectual disability and the wider community.

Key Concepts:

  • In working with people with intellectual disability on the themes of sexuality and procreation a multi-disciplinary approach is needed.

  • Ethics, human rights, genetics and psychotherapy are all relevant in working with sexuality and procreation in people with intellectual disability.

  • A history of trauma and eugenics is a necessary prerequisite to understanding the controversial topic of disability, sexuality and procreation.

  • Co-operation with geneticists is important in considering procreation and disability.

  • People with an intellectual disability have a right to their own sexuality.


  • disability;
  • parenting;
  • sexuality;
  • competence;
  • reproduction;
  • eugenics