Development of Romantic Relationships and Sexual Activity in Young Adults With Cerebral Palsy: A Longitudinal Study
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OBJECTIVES: To describe the development of romantic relationships and sexual activity of young adults with cerebral palsy (CP), to investigate whether this development is associated with demographic and physical characteristics, and to compare the sexual activity of this group with an age-appropriate Dutch reference population. DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal study with 3 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 (age range at first assessment, 16-20 y; 82% Gross Motor Function Classification System level I or II). INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sexual interest, romantic relationships, and sexual activity. RESULTS: We observed a significant increase in dating in young adults with CP during the 4-year period; however, the experience in romantic relationships did not increase largely during this period. Young adults with a lower education level began dating later than those with higher levels. Significantly more women were in current romantic relationships than men. During the 4 years, participants' sexual experience increased significantly for all sexual milestones evaluated. Level of gross motor function was associated significantly with intercourse experience. 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 equal sexual interest at the final assessment. CONCLUSIONS: Young ambulatory adults with CP had similar sexual interests and had increasing experiences with romantic relationships and sexual activities during the transition from late adolescence to young adulthood. However, the percentage of young adults with CP in current romantic relationships was low, especially for men.
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