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Developmental Disabilities

Effect On Romantic Relationships

It was only in the last three decades of the twentieth century that persons with developmental disabilities began to assume a place in society as fully participating members. One aspect of that participation is the development of romantic relationships. One of the myths regarding mental retardation or developmental disabilities is that persons with such disabilities do not have typical romantic feelings. There is nothing about the nature of cognitive disabilities that has direct implications for expression of sexuality (Krajicek 1982). Up until the mid-twentieth century many states had legislation that made it illegal for people with mental retardation to marry. In some states, legislation required sterilization of the mentally retarded. Legislation, beginning with the reauthorization of the Developmental Disabilities Act and Bill of Rights (1975), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (1973), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) has made such state level prohibitions illegal. People with developmental disabilities are now living in the community, getting married, and having children. Although services and supports have been expanded, parents who have developmental disabilities experience a significant prejudice concerning their ability to parent. Although there has been documentation of neglect and abuse by parents with cognitive impairments, it also has been documented that, with both formal and informal supports, parents with cognitive disabilities can provide appropriate parenting. Advocacy movements specific to parenting, such as People First and Through the Looking Glass, have done a great deal to support parents with disabilities. However, unfortunately all too often parents may lose custody of a child due to the a priori assumption that a developmental disability is incompatible with a capacity to successfully parent (Edgerton 1988; Edgerton, Bollinger, and Herr 1984; Rosenberg and McTate 1982, Schilling et al. 1982).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodDevelopmental Disabilities - Causes Of Developmental Disabilities, How Do Different Countries Treat People With Developmental Disabilities?, Impact On The Marital Relationship And The Family