Parental Experiences about the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescent Girls with Intellectual Disability: A Qualitative Study

Shadi Goli, Mahnaz Noroozi, Mehrdad Salehi


Background: Intellectually disabled persons, as compared with normal people, experience different changes during the adolescence period including the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics. However, owing to their low intelligence quotient, these changes are usually accompanied by more problems and challenges. The present study was conducted to determine the experiences of parents regarding the sexual and reproductive health of educable intellectually disabled adolescent girls.

Materials and Methods: This qualitative study was carried out on 52 participants (adolescent girls, parents, teachers, healthcare providers, and managers) who were selected via purposeful sampling in Isfahan between July 2016 and April 2017. Data were collected through semi‑structured interviews, focus group discussions and field notes, and analyzed using conventional content analysis.

Results: Five sub‑categories were extracted: “unawareness about sexual needs of the adolescent girl and her potential vulnerability,” “inappropriate actions in directing the sexual behaviors of the adolescent,” “insufficient supervision and care over the adolescent’s sexual health,” “inappropriate actions toward marrying off the adolescent,” and “inappropriate actions regarding the menstrual and genital health” which formed the main category of “parents’ inefficiency in maintaining adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health.”

Conclusions: Based on the results, parents face different challenges about the sexual and reproductive health of intellectually disabled adolescent girls. Hence, empowering the parents especially mothers through teachers and healthcare providers with the knowledge and skills to maintain the sexual and reproductive health of intellectually disabled adolescent girls would make them emboldened to find the ability to protect themselves in different situations.


Intellectual disability, Iran, parents, sexual health

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