Representations of Sexuality among Persons with Intellectual Disability, as Perceived by Professionals in Specialized Institutions: A Systematic Review

Tamara Guenoun, Barbara Smaniotto, Christophe Clesse, Marion Mauran-Mignorat, Estelle Veyron-Lacroix, Albert Ciccone, Aziz Essadek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The objective of this systematic review is to make an inventory of the representations of the professionals of specialized institutions on the sexuality of persons with intellectual disabilities. The scientific studies were identified according to the PRISMA protocol using 18 databases, with keywords on sexuality and parenthood. Studies were reviewed through a methodological assessment and then a thematic analysis. Twenty-four studies were reviewed and three themes were identified: professionals' representations of gender, sexuality, and consent; professionals' perceptions of their role in supporting people's sexual lives; and the ways in which professionals construct representations of people's sexual lives. This corpus highlights deep paradoxes in the representations of professionals concerning the socio-affective needs and sexuality of people with intellectual disabilities, creating what we could define as a "system of incompatibility" and leading to difficulties in positioning. Support is still too random and subject to control logics in the name of protecting users, who are perceived as vulnerable. Training and new ways of teamwork appear to be central to supporting the evolution of the representations and practices of professionals. Future research anchored in practices and involving users as well as professionals is necessary to better understand the paradoxical aspects of professionals' representations and to draw alternative ways of constructing these representations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2022


  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability/psychology
  • Persons with Mental Disabilities
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexuality/psychology

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