Sexuality and persons with Down syndrome. A study from Brazil

Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2009 Jul-Sep;21(3):319-26. doi: 10.1515/ijamh.2009.21.3.319.


In recent years, important gains and changes have been observed in the life of teenagers with Down syndrome (DS) with increased inclusion into society. This review will discuss adolescence and sexuality in teenagers with DS from a descriptive study of 50 patients with DS between the ages of 10 and 20 years. The mean age was 13.5 years, 50% females; 86% went to school with 62.2% in school for over six years. Of the patients that attended school, 60% went to special education school and only 10% read and wrote correctly. In an evaluation of autonomy, 66% took showers, 78% performed their physiological needs, 77% intimate hygiene and 76% oral hygiene without help. 42% affirmed being able to do anything that is asked; 22% perform all tasks in the home; 10% felt they were incapable of doing anything and 4% used public transportation without help. 42% of the teenagers masturbated, 24% on a daily basis, 75% in private, and 25% in a public location. 42% had already kissed at a mean age of 12.9 years, mean age of the partner 16.1 years; 26.8% of these partners had DS. 82% found themselves attractive and 33% would not change anything in their appearance. We found that they presented normal development in the exercise of their sexuality, but with important difficulties in their autonomy and difficulties in school, needing careful interventions to make their social interaction the best possible. Their pubertal development was normal and they were satisfied with their body image with future perspectives of working, finding a partner, and living a normal life of getting married and having children.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Body Image
  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Down Syndrome / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Personal Autonomy*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self Concept*
  • Sexual Development*
  • Sexuality / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult