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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Indexed/Abstracted in: CAB, EMBASE, PubMed/MEDLINE, Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch), Scopus
Impact Factor 0,532
Minerva Pediatrica 2009 June;61(3):305-21
People with Down’s sindrome: adolescence and the journey towards adulthood
La Grutta S. 1, Lo Baido R. 2, Calì A. 3, Sarno I. 4, Trombini E. 5, Roccella M. 1
1 Department of Psychology University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
2 Department of Clinical Neuroscience (Di.Ne.C.), University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy
3 Family Association for Down people
4 Faculty of Educational Sciences University of Milan-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
5 Department of Psychology University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy
Aim. Sexuality in disabled people is faced with difficulty and inadequateness, if not with complete refusal, the result being that young disabled people are often relegated to a destiny of solitude and abandon. This is even more true when the disability includes mental retardation.
Methods. Twenty-five youngsters between the age of 13 and 25 years – 14 males (56%) and 11 females (44%) were recruited together with their mothers for this study. All attend the Family Association for Down people in Palermo. The youngsters with Down’s syndrome were invited to carry out a drawing activity and then to describe what they had drawn. The mothers, on the other hand, replied to a semi-structured interview, the contents of which were organised into three areas: 1) the reaction of parents when the doctors communicate the birth of a child with Down’s syndrome; 2) parents and the sexuality of a child with Down’s syndrome; 3) the expectations of parents with regard to the future of their child with Down’s syndrome.
Results. The free designs and their description demonstrated a clear emergence of themes that regard sexuality in 6 protocols out of 25. In 9 cases out of 25 the reference to sexuality is hidden behind allusive designs and descriptions. Six protocols testify, even if indirectly referable to the theme of sexuality, the emergence of an autonomy conflict, typical of adolescents, which demonstrates the beginning of the transitory process towards adulthood. Only in four situations was a sexuality reference not interpretable in the productions of the children. The qualitative analysis of the interviews carried out with the mothers evidences how the theme of the sexuality of the disabled child is lived in a conflictual way by the parents.
Conclusion. The results obtained lead to affirm that the “question regarding sexuality” is more problematic from the parents’ point of view rather than from that child’s. In this prospective, in order to advantage the parents, it is necessary to plan psychological and clinical interventions regarding an education to sexuality.