Sexuality of clients with special needs
‘Touching people in relationships’: a qualitative study of close relationships for people with an intellectual disability
Article first published online: 9 OCT 2013
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Journal of Clinical Nursing
Special Issue: Special issue on Sexual reproduction and health
Volume 22, Issue 23-24, pages 3456–3466, December 2013
How to Cite
Sullivan, F., Bowden, K., McKenzie, K. and Quayle, E. (2013), ‘Touching people in relationships’: a qualitative study of close relationships for people with an intellectual disability. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 22: 3456–3466. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12375
- Issue published online: 8 NOV 2013
- Article first published online: 9 OCT 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 23 MAR 2013
- intellectual disability;
Aims and objectives
To explore the experiences and perceptions of close and sexual relationships of people with an intellectual disability.
Positive interpersonal relationships are beneficial for people with an intellectual disability, acting as a protective barrier against, social stigma and negative outcomes such as physical and mental health problems. The social networks of people with an intellectual disability are, however, often more restricted than those of the general population. There has been very little research exploring the views and experiences of people with an intellectual disability about social and sexual relationships.
Exploratory study using a qualitative research design.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 (6 male, 4 female) participants. Data were analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis.
‘Touching other people in relationships’ was identified as a superordinate theme. The theme was represented by five subthemes: ‘Is wrong’; ‘Unsafe to talk about’; ‘Suggesting is safe’; ‘No freedom or fun’; and ‘Being touched’. The findings presented are drawn from a larger qualitative study.
The findings highlight the importance of touch and sexual behaviours in the close relationships of participants. Negative perceptions were observed to surround sexual behaviours. Rules and restrictions regarding physical contact were also described.
Relevance to clinical practice
Disseminating these findings may increase awareness of the importance of physical contact in the close relationships of people with an intellectual disability and promote positive support arrangements.