Sexuality in the Eyes of Parents and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Saturday, May 13, 2017: 2:34 PM
Yerba Buena 3-6 (Marriott Marquis Hotel)
K. Hartmann1, T. Kozikowski1, T. V. Williams2, M. Urbano1, N. L. Kreiser3, L. R. Qualls2 and P. L. Alexander1, (1)Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA, (2)Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, Norfolk, VA, (3)Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA
Background:  Sexuality is a difficult topic for most people given social rules, whether they are neurotypical or have additional challenges such as ASD. Especially as their child becomes sexually mature, families find themselves facing difficult issues to consider when communicating about sexuality. As many individuals with ASD rely on their family of origin well into their adulthood, this study examined young adults with ASD (YA) and their parents (P) perceptions about the YA’s sexuality and sexual behaviors.

Objectives: This study explored YA and P perceptions about sexuality with a focus on sexual privacy, education, behavior, victimization and concerns. Our primary aim was to examine YA’s desires for intimate relationships, behaviors towards a person of romantic interest, and sexual experiences. Our second aim was to explore YA and P agreement in their perceptions of YA’s sexual experiences and behaviors.

Methods:  YA and P were recruited largely from a metropolitan East Coast area. Data were collected in an anonymous on-line survey. 118 YA were matched to P responses. All participants completed a series of measures to characterize the YA participants and their sexual experiences including privacy, education and behavior on the Sexual Behavior Scale (SBS), negative experiences including victimization on the Sexual Experience Scale (SES), knowledge on the General Sexual Knowledge Questionnaire (GSKQ), and sexual orientation and contacts on the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (KSOG)

Results:  Descriptive statistics were calculated to examine YA’s sexual behaviors and experiences. A significant proportion of YAs reported that they have had sexual intercourse (53.4%). However, many YA also indicated that they have never been romantically interested in another person (32.5%). Paired samples t-tests were used to assess discrepancies between P and YA reports on the above measures. Results showed a significant difference between YA and P report on the SBS privacy subscale, SBS sexual behavior subscale, and SES victimization subscale (Table 1). Notably, YA reported more privacy seeking for masturbation than their parents reported (t (92) = -2.12, p = .037). P and YA also significantly aligned on several individual item responses (all Cohen’s κ > 0.32, p < 0.001, % agreement > 82.9%; Figure 1).

Conclusions: A large proportion of YA reported having had sexual intercourse while many reported not being romantically interested in another person. YA and their parents agree on many questions about the YAs sexuality. Differences were found in YA’s reports of more normal privacy and sexual behaviors than P reported. This may be due to YA perception of their behaviors as typical. It may also be due to parents remembering and reporting the YA’s most salient inappropriate behaviors from an earlier developmental stage of the YA. YA reported higher experiences of sexual victimization than their parents reported for them suggesting a communication gap that warrants clinical intervention. Parent and YA overwhelmingly expressed their desire for assistance with sex education and this may be best addressed in the ASD population by improving family communication about sexuality.