Social, intimate and sexual relationships of adolescents with cerebral palsy compared with able-bodied age-mates
Diana Wiegerink, Marij E. Roebroeck, Mireille Donkervoort, Peggy T Cohen-Kettenis, Henk J. Stam
Objective: To describe the social, intimate and sexual relationships of Dutch adolescents with cerebral palsy compared with their able-bodied age mates.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Subjects: A total of 103 adolescents with cerebral palsy without severe learning problems aged 16–20 years.
Methods: We used a structured interview and questionnaires to assess subject characteristics such as age, type of cerebral palsy, gross motor function and level of education. Main outcome measures on social, intimate and sexual relationships are the Life-Habits questionnaire, the Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scale, and a structured interview developed for Dutch studies in able-bodied persons and persons with spina bifida. Experienced competence was assessed with the Dutch version of the Self-Perception Profile of Adolescents and the Physical Disability Sexual and Body Esteem Scale. These data were compared with matching reference data, mainly from able-bodied (Dutch) adolescents.
Results: Approximately 30% of the subjects functioned socially below their age level. Adolescents with cerebral palsy find it difficult to develop intimate relationships and they have less sexual experience than their able-bodied age mates.
Conclusion: Although adolescents with cerebral palsy do have social relationships, it is difficult for them to develop intimate relationships. They perceive various barriers, but seem to have a positive self-perception.