Dating and Romantic Relationships of Adolescents With Intellectual Disability: An Application of a Developmental Perspective
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OBJECTIVES: This study examined romantic features (romantic conceptualization, romantic awareness, romantic involvement, and romantic relationship quality) of adolescents with mild ID within three established developmental frameworks: developmental-contextual, dating stage, and cognitive. Individual differences were also taken into account. METHODS: A sample of 31 youth (16-19 years) with mild ID and their parents responded to questionnaires examining various romantic features and contextual factors (parents and school). RESULTS: The majority of adolescents (85%) wanted a romantic relationship “right now,” and 48% have had a previous or current romantic relationship. Adolescents were also able to describe and identify a romantic partner, as well as distinguish between a romantic partner and a friend. Majority of youth (86.7%) received socio-sexual education from parents, although this education was not linked to better romantic awareness. Adolescents were also compared based on comorbidity with ASD. Adolescents with ID were found to have better social skills and better romantic awareness than those with ID/ASD. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the need for more attention to developing evidence-based practice in educating youth with ID about relationships and to capitalize on opportunities for these adolescents to socialize with peers.