Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Catherine Marrs Fuchsel


Social Work


Individuals with Developmental Disabilities (DD) face significant barriers to experiencing relationships and expressing sexuality. While the law recognizes basic human rights, there continue to be societal attitudes that shape how individuals with DD are treated and supported. A qualitative exploratory study was conducted using semi-structured interviews and Grounded Theory to examine how Direct Support Professionals (DSP) experience providing support for relationships and sexuality for persons with DD. From the analysis of this data, six themes emerged: (a) Clarity of DSP Role Around Supporting Sexuality and Relationships, (b) Families or Interdisciplinary Teams as a Barrier for Sexual Relationships and Expression of Sexuality, (c) Lack of Privacy for Individuals with DD, (d) Individual’s Overall Cognitive Functioning Level, Capacity to Consent, and Lack of Understanding About Sexuality (e) Safety and Identified Risks, and (f) Access to the Community as a Barrier. The results of this study suggest that there continue to be significant barriers for individuals with DD in expresing sexuality. Further research is needed that would identify these barriers and suggest program and policy changes to reduce these barriers.

Included in

Social Work Commons