Why is this research important?

This review asked the question, are youth with disabilities and their healthcare providers (HCPs) talking about sexuality? Studies involving youth under 21 and their HCPs were examined to identify themes including what was talked about, how often and the barriers to conversations.

Talking about sexuality is more than just the basics of biology; it’s also about feelings, relationships, and how society views these topics. For young people, understanding their sexuality can be tricky, and it’s even harder for those with health problems or disabilities. This is where doctors and other healthcare workers can really help. They can offer advice, answer questions, and be a source of support. But there’s a problem. Many times, these important talks aren’t happening as much as they should. And when they do happen, they might not cover everything the young person wants to know. It’s not just about “the birds and the bees” but also about feelings, relationships, and facing challenges. There are many reasons why these talks might be missing the mark. Maybe the doctor isn’t trained to discuss these topics, or perhaps they feel uncomfortable talking about them. It’s crucial to find ways to get past these hurdles. When young people have the right information, they can make better choices and feel more confident.

Also, it’s essential to remember that young people with disabilities or ongoing health issues might have specific questions or worries. They need talks that fit their situation, so they don’t feel left out.

To sum it up, we need to do a better job at having these sexuality talks. Everyone deserves to have the right information and support, especially when it comes to such an important part of life.

Research Findings

Key findings from the review included:

  1. Content of Sexuality Conversations: Majority of the discussions fall under biological topics, with a focus on STIs, birth control, sexual behaviors, and pubertal development. Less emphasis is placed on psychosocial topics like sexual attraction, orientation, romantic relationships, and body image.
  2. Prevalence of Sexuality Conversations: There’s a discrepancy between what Health Care Providers (HCPs) report discussing and what youth recall being discussed. While many HCPs reported discussing sexuality, fewer youth remember such conversations.
  3. Barriers to Discussing Sexuality: Personal Barriers: Both HCPs and youth are uncertain about who should initiate the conversation, feel personal discomfort around the topic, and are concerned about being judged.
  4. Systemic Barriers: Concerns about maintaining confidentiality, structural constraints like time limits, HCPs’ inadequate training, and lack of organizational guidance were identified as systemic barriers.

Focus on Youth with Disabilities or Chronic Conditions: Only a few articles specifically addressed this group. Sexuality discussions with these youth are infrequent and brief.

Practical Implications

Discussing sexuality goes beyond its biological aspect; it encompasses emotions and societal perspectives. To enhance these conversations, it’s important to address the challenges hindering open discussions between youth and healthcare providers. Sexuality significantly impacts our health and self-perception, necessitating better training for healthcare professionals. Presently, there’s a lack of guidance on addressing sexuality with young individuals, particularly those with disabilities or health issues. More research is crucial to cater to their unique needs. Collaboration between researchers, doctors, and the youth can create improved strategies and resources. Ultimately, refining our approach to discussing sexuality with the young in medical contexts is imperative, especially considering the current conversational shortcomings.


Lung, S. L. M., Wincentak, J., Gan, C.,Kingsnorth, S., Provvidenza, C., & McPherson, A. C. (2021). Are healthcare providers and young people talking about sexuality? A scoping review to characterize conversations and identify barriers. Child: Care, Health and Development, 47(6),744–757. https://doi.org/10.1111/cch.12892