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Sexuality Issues in Adolescents with a Chronic Neurological Condition

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Substantial progress in the medical treatment of individuals with spina bifida (SB) has increased the numbers who survive into adolescence and adulthood. However, sexual health in this population has not received much attention. This study explored the knowledge (SB Sexuality Knowledge Scale), worries (SB Worries Scale), romantic appeal (from Harter's Self-Perception Scale), and access to sexuality information of a sample of 60 adolescents from a midwestern state. Study participants reported having sexual feelings like their peers, and they knew they could contract sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) if they were sexually active. However, only a moderate percentage was aware that women with SB are fertile, that adolescent women with SB should take a multivitamin with folic acid, and that latex-free condoms should be used by most adolescents with SB. They did not worry about their ability to make friends; however, these adolescents reported low levels of perceived romantic appeal and they worried about sexuality issues. These sexuality issues were not correlated to measures of SB neurological severity. Although over 50% reported having discussed sexuality with a health professional, 29% reported no one discussed sexuality and SB with them. Data from this study can affect the way health care providers and educators conduct sexuality education in health care and school settings.

Keywords: adolescent sexuality; spina bifida

Document Type: Standard Article


Affiliations: 1: KATHLEEN SAWIN is an associate professor in the School of Nursing at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. She is also a PNP in the Spina Bifida Program at the Children's Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. 2: CONSTANCE BURAN is a pediatric clinical nurse specialist with an expertise in the care of children with multiple handicaps. She is the manager of the Rehabilitation Medical Service Area at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiania, and manages the spina bifida program there. 3: TIMOTHY BREI is a clinical associate professor in the Developmental Pediatrics Department at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. He is also the medical director for the spina bifida and cerebral palsy programs at Riley Hospital for Children. 4: PHILIP FASTENAU is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Indiana University=nPurdue University in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is also a licensed clinical neuropsychologist and an adjunct assistant professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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