Advances in Applied Sociology
2014. Vol.4, No.1, 24-29
Published Online January 2014 in SciRes (
Self-Pereception of Adults with Intellectual and
Developmental Disabilities
Mary Rita Weller
Department of Social Work, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown, USA
Received November 25th, 2013; revised December 25th, 2013; accepted January 2nd, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Mary Rita Weller. This is an op en access articl e distributed under the Cre ative Commons At-
tribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited. In accordance of the Creative Commons Attribution License all Copyrights ©
2014 are reserved for SCIRP an d the own er of the in tellectual prop erty Mary Rita Weller. All Copyright © 2014
are guarded by law and by SCIRP as a guardian.
Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) may view themselves as children; indeed
they are often treated in a childlike manner by others. Some may develop a self-perception that they are
minors and view children more as peers. Using data from this author’s (Smith, 2006) unpublished disser-
tation, developmental self-perception is explored by using a subset of questions from the SSKAAT-R in-
strument (Griffiths & Lunsky, 2003). This study discusses how some adults with IDD self-identify as
more closely resembling children. A total of 26 adults with IDD, 17 males and nine females, were in-
volved. With IRB approval, questions that would assess understanding regarding perception of self (along
with a follow-up question regarding sexual attraction) were posed. Of the 26 participants, 73% self-iden-
tified as more closely resembling adults, whereas the remaining 27% self-identified as more closely re-
sembling children.
Keywords: Self-Perception; Adults with Disabilities; SSKAAT-R; Social Interactions; Role Theory
Adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD)
may view themselves as children; indeed, they are often treated
in a childlike manner by others, including family members,
agency staff, physicians, and the general public. In turn, having
a perception that they are childlike, some adults with IDD may
view children more as peers than people that are their chrono-
logical age. Some adults with IDD may lack understanding of
the difference between their adult self and children which in
turn may lead them to have diminished ability to develop mea-
ningful and healthy relationships overall. Moreover, adults that
behave in more childlike manners and frequently interact with
children on a social level are often scrutinized and stigmatized
as having suspicious and questionable behavior which may
further impede opportunities for social engagement with other
adults. The purpose of this study is to look at the various possi-
bilities that some adults with IDD may self-identify as more
closely resembling children.
The notion that some adults with IDD perceive themselves as
children due to how others treat and perceive them is reported
in the literature. Evans, McGuire, Healy, and Carley (2009)
assessed the attitudes of staff and family regarding the sexuality
of people with IDD. Evans, et al. (2009) indicated how rela-
tionships may play a significant role in behaviors that people
engaged in regardless of disability status. Siebelink, de Jong,
Taal, and Roelvink (2006) discussed how people characterized
social interactions based on expected and actual differences in
roles. Attractions and sexual experiences are not simply driven
by biological forces, but also role expectations that are socially
constructed (2006). Thus the question investigated is: “Do
some adults with IDD perceive themselves as more closely
resembling children?”
Theoretical Perspe ctiv e
Role theory provides the theoretical basis for this study in
regards to self-perception. According to role theory, individuals
develop their identity and understanding of their selves based
on the roles that they play within their culture. In 1934,
“George Herbert Mead, the sociologist, introduced the concept
of role taking and focused on its significance in the develop-
ment of an individual’s self-concept” (Davis, 1986: p. 542).
“We lay the foundation for a sense of who we are by identify-
ing with significant others, internalizing their attitudes as our
own, and seeing ourselves as others see us” (1986: p. 542).
Since individuals with IDD may be treated similar to children
by their families, support persons, physicians, educators, and
general society members, then according to role theory these
individuals may develop the self-concept of being a child as
they take on the role expectation. “Role expectations are the set
of expectations for the behaviors of a person or a position held
by a particular person or by a generalized other” (1986: p. 545).
On another take of the role theory, Simon and Gagnon (2003)
explored the correlation between sexual knowledge and atti-
tudes and between attitudes and experiences as they developed
their theory on sexual scripts which addresses the origins, in-
fluences and changes of how people develop their sexual beha-
viors and understanding. Simon and Gagnon’s study (2003)
provides additional insight about the theoretical framework that
is presented in this study in regards to role theory in their inter-
pretation of sexual scripts. Individuals with IDD are influenced
by roles that they observe and fulfill them just like everyone
else. Part of the study is exploring the insight that individuals
with IDD have about themselves and their developmental stage.
Smith and Willner (2004) examined the relationship para-
digms of men with IDD and how stronger, healthier relation-
ships may be a deterrent in men with IDD from acting out vio-
lent and aggressive sexual behavior. Steptoe, Lindsay, Forrest,
and Power (2006) correlated poor social adjustments and rela-
tionships with acting out of violent, aggressive sexual behavior
of sex offenders with IDD. It should be noted that this current
analysis does not investigate how self-identity may influence
sexual behavior, only looks at how adults with IDD may perce-
ive themselves either as children or adults.
In looking at this current investigation, it also raises ques-
tions about how self-concept is developed overall. When and
how does the concept of self emerge? Is there a physiological
difference between how people with cognitive disabilities and
those without any disability develop their own self-concept or
is the development of self-concept solely dependent on the
social environment or is it a combination of both?
Erikson (1982) noted the struggle, at the time of transition
from adolescence to young adulthood and eventually the pas-
sage into full adulthood, is between generativity versus self-
absorption and stagnation. “Generativity encompasses procrea-
tivity, productivity, and creativity, and thus the generation of
new beings as well as of new products and new ideas, including
a kind of self-generation concerned with further identity devel-
opment” (1982: p. 67). Essentially, Erikson notes that the stage
of adulthood takes on a new commitment towards caring for
others, which often corresponds with the time of procreation.
Ironically, most adults with IDD are being taken care of rather
than moving into the adult role of providing care for others; this
may account for the possibility of why some adults with IDD
do not necessarily relate to the role of an adult and/or acquire
the adult self-identity.
Although Erikson’s work may be considered to be somewhat
flawed and outdated, it is important to note his work around
human development and how it may be used to provide some
understanding of how individuals transition from one stage of
life development into the next. Erikson (1982) theorized about
the development of individuals as they progressed through var-
ious life stages starting at infancy through old age. He (Erikson,
1982) broke down human development into eight epigenetic
orders (infancy, early childhood, play age, school age, adoles-
cence, young adulthood, adulthood, and old age) with eight
corresponding stages (psychosexual, psychosocial crises, radius
of significant relations, basic strengths, basic antipathies, social
order, binding ritualization, and ritualism). “A pervasive sense
of identity brings into gradual accord the variety of changing
self-images that have been experienced during childhood (and,
that, during adolescence, can be dramatically recapitulated) and
the role opportunities offering themselves to young persons for
selection and commitment. On the other hand, a lasting sense of
self cannot exist without a continuous experience of a con-
scious ‘I,’ which is the numinous center of existence: a kind of
existential identity, then which must gradually transcend the
psychosocial one” (1982: p. 73). “In summary, the process of
identity formation emerges as an evolving configuration a
configuration that gradually integrates constitutional givens,
idiosyncratic libidinal needs, favored capacities, significant
identifications, effective defenses, successful sublimations, and
consistent roles” (1982: p. 74). Taking into consideration all of
these processes as delineated by Erikson (1982), one can only
wonder how 73% of the participants in this study managed to
develop any sense of self as adults when considering their need
for ongoing support and in some cases close supervision. As
noted previously, adults with IDD are often treated like children
as they often need assistance with basic daily life skills includ-
ing personal care, money management, supervision, and so
Piaget’s work also has been criticized and debated through
the years, but again his classic theories regarding cognitive
development may provide some understanding into how indi-
viduals develop self-perceptions. Fischer (1980) was heavily
influenced by Piaget research as he also explored the construc-
tion of cognitive development. Fischer (1980) noted that little
research exists related to cognitive development beyond ado-
lescence. Fischer focuses on Piaget’s framework of cognitive
development that virtually ends with formal operations: “Ado-
lescents entering the formal operational period have achieved
fully logical thinking, and there is little more for them to do,
except perhaps to extend their logical thinking to new context
areas” (1980: p. 496). Piaget (1972) also took into considera-
tion that “the speed of development can vary from one individ-
ual to another and also from one social environment to another;
consequently, we may find some children who advance quickly
or others who are backward, but this does not change the order
of succession of the stages through which they pass” (p. 41).
Piaget (1972) also noted changes in adolescents’ social point of
view diverging from childhood. Here they begin to develop
their ability to hypothetical reasoning; “hence, the adolescent’s
capacity to understand and even construct theories and to par-
ticipate in society and the ideologies of adults” (1972: p. 42).
One may conceptualize that since individuals develop at dif-
ferent stages, it may be that some individuals with IDD suc-
cessfully transitioned into the adolescent stage and eventually
adulthood, whereas, other individuals with IDD may require a
much longer period of time to acquire the cognitive abilities in
adolescence and eventually adulthood, while other individuals
with IDD may never transition cognitively beyond childhood.
Piaget (1972) also compared development speed of children
based on their environment. “These different speeds would be
due to the quality and frequency of intellectual stimulation
received from adults or obtained from the possibilities available
to the children for spontaneous activity in their environment”
(1972: p. 44). He proposed that poor stimulation and activity, as
well as extremely disadvantaged conditions could result in
slowed down development (1972). Piaget looked at situations
that included individuals with normal development and failed to
include individuals with any disabilities. Additionally, Piaget
(1972) noted that “the study of young adults is much more dif-
ficult than the study of the young child as they are less creative,
and already part of an organized society that not only limits
them and slows them down but sometimes even rouses them to
revolt” (p. 47). Taking into consideration all of the challenges
in studying adults, layer on top of that developmental disabili-
ties, and it almost seems impossible to determine the under-
standing of why some individuals with IDD view themselves
accurately as adults, while others do not.
This study predominately focuses on self-perception of
adults with IDD but also takes into consideration aspects of
sexual attraction and behavior. Some related sexuality theories
regarding sexual attraction and behavior include evolutionary
psychological, social learning, and schema. Evolutionary psy-
chological theory is based from Darwin’s theory of evolution
from natural selection. “According to evolutionary psychologi-
cal theory, the physical features that people find attractive are
precisely those that have been reliably correlated with repro-
ductive success throughout human existence” (Wagstaff, Ab-
ramson, & Pinkerton, 2000, p. 11). One can only assume that
according to the evolutionary psychological theory individuals
with visible disabilities would be considered sexually undesira-
ble as they may not exude the ideal state of youth and health-
fulness. “Symons (1995) argues that the appearance of youth
and healthfulness is universally associated with female attrac-
tiveness because these qualities act as de facto markers for re-
productive fitness” (p. 81). “Consequently, he predicts that in
all societies in which women attempt to alter their appearance
through cosmetics, diet, exercise, and dress they will do so in
a manner that accentuates the appearance of youth and health”
(1995: p. 82). “Conversely, men are assumed to have inborn
mechanisms for detecting these qualities in women” (1995: p.
83). In considering this theory in relation to adults with IDD,
this may be where the misconception that adults with disabili-
ties are non-sexual beings or at least that they should be since
many will have obvious physical features related to their disa-
bility. Even if the individual does not have an apparent visible
disability, once they verbally communicate, their disability
often is obvious due to grappled speech and/or cognitive emis-
Social learning theory provides additional accepted prin-
ciples regarding sexual behavior and relationships. Social
learning theory is based on the work of Kurt Lewin (1935) and
Julian Rotter (1954), and Albert Bandura (1977, 1986). “It
states that reinforcements that occur in society shape attitudes
and behaviors” (Hyde & DeLamater, 2000: p. 34). If an indi-
vidual receives positive reinforcement for a behavior, than that
individual will most likely continue to engage in the same be-
havior; this is often referred to as positive reinforcement or
conditioning. Social learning theory assumes that individuals
learn by modeling behavior of other people. Hyde and DeLa-
mater (2000) discuss how social learning theory is “useful in
explaining the development of gender identity, or one’s sense
of maleness or femaleness” (p. 34). The examples often used in
relationship to social learning theory is how little girls may
imitate their mother’s by playing grownup by dressing up in
their mother’s clothing and putting on makeup. Adults with
IDD learn by imitation and modeling behavior that they see in
their environments and through media. Social learning theory
can be connected back to how adults with IDD develop con-
cepts related to roles of adults and children; if they are treated
like adults and have responsibilities and decision making ex-
pectations, according to the social learning theory, they will
model adult behavior. In turn, when adults with IDD are treated
similar to children by others in their environment, they may
take on the role and behavior expectations of children such as
dependency and lack of autonomy.
Schema theory is also relevant for this study as it looks at
gender role development, essentially how genders differentiate.
“Psychologist Sandra Bem (1981) has proposed a schema
theory to explain gender-role development and the impact of
gender on people’s daily lives and thinking” (p. 354). “Schema”
is a term taken from cognitive psychology. “A schema is a cog-
nitive structure, a network of associations that organizes and
guides an individual’s perception” (1981: p. 355). “As children
learn the contents of the society’s gender schema, they learn
which attributes are to be linked with their own sex and, hence,
with themselves” (1981: p. 355). Bem (1981) notes that every-
one possesses a gender schema the set of attributes (behaviors,
personality, appearance) that we associate with males and fe-
males. Our gender schema, according to Bem (1981), predis-
poses us to process information on the basis of gender. All
people basically categorize behavior based on gender. Take for
example, upon hearing the news that a woman is pregnant, one
of the first inquiries is often does she know if it is a boy or a
girl. There are social expectations associated with gender beha-
vior based on each person’s culture.
Study Design/Method
The data being analyzed for this study is a portion of that
collected for this author’s unpublished doctoral dissertation
(Smith, 2006). A mixed methods, non-experimental design was
chosen in order to minimize potential communication obstacles
and to fully explore the views of the participants. The qualita-
tive approach included face-to-face interviews in which three
questions related to self-identity and attraction were presented
verbally to the participants, meeting the criteria for qualitative
research (Bogdan & Biklen, 1992):
1) Has the natural setting as the direct source of data and the
researcher is the key instrument;
2) Is descriptive as the data collected are in the form of words
or pictures rather than numbers;
3) Concerned with process rather than simply outcomes or
4) Tends to anal yz e d ata inductiv ely;
5) “Meaning” is of essential concern to the approach and in-
terested in the ways different people make sense of their lives.
(p. 30)
The SSKAAT-R instrument (Griffiths & Lunsky, 2003) was
used to assess the participants regarding their overall under-
standing about relationships and sexuality. SSKAAT-R (2003)
contains a total of 370 questions designed to assist educators
and clinicians working with persons with developmental dis-
abilities. It evaluates information persons with developmental
disabilities have about their bodies, socio-sexual intimacy, rela-
tionships and issues of abuse. This tool was selected for im-
plementation because of its relevant assessment themes, in-
cluding: overall understanding about relationships, bodies and
sexuality; women’s knowledge of men’s bodies (for women
only) and men’s bodies (for men only); intimacy, pregnancy,
childbirth, and childrearing; birth control and sexually trans-
mitted infections; and healthy sexuality and boundaries. For the
purposes of this line of inquiry, three questions were analyzed.
This subset of questions from the SSKAAT-R (2003) asks in-
dividuals to identify the person that most resembles them from
a series of photos that are displayed on one sheet; the four pho-
tos represent one male adult, one female adult, one male child,
and one female child. Specifically, the item being analyzed is
“show me the picture of the person who is most like you”. This
study also takes into account the two related questions posed
with this initial question regarding “person most like you”
which are “show me the people it is okay for you to go out with
on a romantic date and show me the people with whom it is
okay for you to have sex” (2003: p. 77). These queries are re-
levant to self-identity and attraction; the face-to-face interviews
contribute to the expression of those complex factors.
Requirements for participation were that the individuals had
to be over the age of 18 and have a diagnosis of IDD ranging
from mild to moderate. The 26 participants were between the
ages of 21 to 57 years old (M = 38, SD = 11.56) with the diag-
nosis of mild to moderate IDD. These individuals were referred
for evaluation due to their challenges related to relationships
and/or sexuality issues. The heightened risk for this population
required a full review for Institutional Review Board (IRB)
approval; all human subject guidelines were followed. It was
determined that their special status as referred clients did not
disqualify them for this study; indeed, it was an opportunity to
examine the link between documented behavior and self-con-
cept. Consent was secured both from the individuals and their
family members. Information used for the current analysis in-
cludes gender, age, and responses to three questions that used
photos portraying an adult male, adult female, child male, and
child female.
After the text edit has been completed, the paper is ready for
the template. Duplicate the template file by using the Save As
command, and use the naming convention prescribed by your
journal for the name of your paper. In this newly created file,
highlight all of the contents and import your prepared text file.
You are now ready to style your paper. Four out of the 17 males
self-identified as most closely resembling the male child; 12
males aligned themselves with the adult male. One male self-
identified as most closely resembling the female child as he
stated that, “she dresses like me.” Two out of nine females
indicated that they most resembled the female child; whereas,
the seven other females stated that they most resembled the
female adult. One of the females that indicated that she most
resembled the female child also indicated that it would be okay
to date and/or have sex with the female child. Two of the males
that stated that they most resembled the male child, also indi-
cated their attraction to the female child. Another male that
identified himself most closely resembling a male child indi-
cated his attraction towards the male child. Although another
male that identified himself most resembling a male adult indi-
cated his attraction towards the female child. Out of the nine
females in the total sample, one stated that it would be okay to
date a male child, but have sex with a male adult; the other
eight female participants either indicated that it was okay to
date and/or have sex with an adult, or neither behavior was
okay for them to engage in. Ten out of the 17 male participants
stated that it would be okay to date and/or have sex with an
adult, or neither behavior was okay for them to engage in. As
stated earlier, an interesting discovery in the original study
(Smith, 2006) was that seven (27%) out of the 26 participants
choose the photo representing a child, whereas, the other 19
(73%) participants accurately choose the adult photo.
The data in the graph (Figure 1) represents total number of
participants in the study and their correlating responses to the
question: “show me the picture of the person who is most like
you.” The first graph shows total number of participants (N =
26) with the breakdown of men (N = 17) and females (N = 9)
with their responses as pointing to the adult photos (man or
woman) (N = 19) or child photos (boy or girl) (N = 7). The
second graph represents the males’ responses (N = 17) to the
question of “show me the picture of the person who is most like
Figure 1.
Self-Perception Responses: Who is most like you?
you.” Out of the 17 men in the study, 12 pointed to the adult
photos; five pointed to the photo of a child (boy or girl): four of
the males pointed to the photo of the boy, whereas, one male
pointed to the photo of the girl. The third graph represents the
responses of the nine women in the study. Seven of the women
pointed to an adult photo in response to this question, whereas,
two women pointed to the girl’s photo.
The question investigated was: “Do some adults with IDD
perceive themselves as more closely resembling children?”
There may be numerous reasons why seven out of the 26 indi-
viduals indicated their resemblance to children when given the
four choices between adult male, adult female, child male, and
child female. Classic theorists such as Piaget and Erikson
would most likely posit that due to the cognitive disability sta-
tus of these individuals, some of their developmental transi-
tions were disrupted and not fully realized because of a combi-
nation of physiological and social conditions present in their
environments. This theoretical premise, however, does not ex-
plain the variation amongst the other 19 individuals that accu-
rately pick an adult representation for themselves.
As noted, one male who self-identified as most closely resembl-
ing the female child as he stated that “she dressed like me.”
Based on this one response, it may be further understood that
some and/or all individuals interpreted the questions differently
than what the original purpose was from the investigator’s
stance. Essentially, the question may have been misunderstood
and the person may have thought they were being asked which
person dresses most like you? In the photos displayed from the
SSKAAT-R (Griffiths & Lunsky, 2003) tool, none of the males
and/or females are overtly masculine or feminine, and in all
four photos everyone wore a basic pullover shirt or sweater or
sweatshirt and pants; the man displayed had an obvious mus-
tache and the woman was the only one with a graphic line de-
sign on her sweater. It should also be noted that all photos were
in black and white therefore, colors were not apparent.
The questions 1) “show me the picture of the person who is
most like you”; 2) “show me the people it is okay for you to go
17 17
4 4
Total MalesFemales
Men Women
Adult PerceptionChild Perception
Girl Boy
out with on a romantic date”; 3) “show me the people with
whom it is okay for you to have sex” as well elicited mixed
responses. Simon and Gagnon (2003), well known for their
development of the idea of sexual scripts, may interpret feed-
back from the individuals that answered questions in regards to
going on a romantic date and/or okay to have sex with indi-
viduals that may be playing along, and answering the questions
based on the individuals’ understanding of their dating and
sexual roles in our culture. The individuals that responded to
the questions that neither dating and/or having sex with another
individual portrayed in the photo, may be responding to sexual
scripts that essentially support the idea of abstinence for adults
with IDD. Messages of being non-sexual are constantly being
reinforced to individuals with IDD through their interactions
with family, peers, media, physicians, staff, etc. Additionally,
the individuals may have mistaken the hypothetical stance of
the questions being posed, such as looking at these individuals
as being strangers or perhaps not being sexually attractive or
appealing to them. As for the six individuals, two females and
four males, that answered positively in regards to either dating
and/or having sex with the children, they too may have misun-
derstood the line of questioning in that they may not have even
known what was meant by dating and/or having sex; it should
be noted that the line of questioning was direct and uniform
with little or no improvisation.
Overall, this current study proposed to address some of the
reasons that seven adults with IDD indicated their resemblance
to children, in contrast to the other 19 adults with IDD that
accurately indicated their resemblance to adults. One must cau-
tion that this sample is too small to be a true representation of
feedback from adults with IDD. There were 26 people in this
study; in United States alone there are over six million people
that may have the diagnosis of IDD as two percent of the popu-
lation is deemed to have IDD (U.S. Department of Commerce,
2013). These 26 individuals may not be a fair representation of
adults with IDD. The data were collected from individuals that
were referred for evaluation due to challenges related to rela-
tionships and/or sexuality issues; therefore, they may over-
represent individuals with IDD that may demonstrate the self-
perception of a child and/or an attraction towards children.
A further understanding about how adults with IDD may
maintain a misunderstanding about their self-identity may lead
to quality of life issues. There continue to be many struggles in
supporting adults with IDD in securing basic human rights
related to autonomy and self-determinati on. Field and Hoffman
(1994) define self-determination as “the ability to identify and
achieve goals based on a foundation of knowing and valuing
oneself” (p. 164). “The individual knowledge, skills, and beliefs
that lead to self-determination are delineated according to five
components: know yourself, value yourself, plan, act and expe-
rience outcomes, and learn” (Field & Hoffman, 2002: p. 113).
Schools are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Edu-
cation Act (IDEA) to support students with disabilities that
identify and develop practices and programs that support self-
determination for youths with disabilities (Ward & Kohler,
1996). Essentially, adults with IDD need to be encouraged and
supported to make their own decisions and choices about their
lives which is the emphasis of self-determination. It is impor-
tant for them to view themselves physically, mentally, and so-
cially as their adult self, rather than as children that are depen-
dent and often void of any decision making ability. There is
both an empirical and theoretical link between self-determina-
tion and quality of life (Wehmeyer & Schalock, 2001).
Based on historical and current treatment of adults with IDD,
it should not be surprising that some adults with IDD more
closely align themselves with children. “For many persons with
intellectual and developmental disabilities, it is during their
adolescent years that they begin to recognize differences be-
tween themselves and their typically developing peers” (Jones,
2012: p. 31); this recognition may lead to feelings of inadequa-
cy, frustration, or isolation (Evans, 1998). Moreover, how one
views the self is critical to one’s long-term personal develop-
ment (Harter, 1986). It should not be surprising that once indi-
viduals with IDD reach adulthood, often they do not perceive
themselves as adults as they continue to rely on others for basic
support such as personal care, finances, housing, and essentially
everyday living needs. It would be interesting to learn more
about each individual in how they interact with others in their
environment. How much autonomy do individuals have within
their social environments? What are the relationship dynamics
within their families and vocational environments? Those 19
participants that accurately perceived themselves as adults may
actually be encouraged to be more independent and provided
with the support to be more successful as autonomous adults.
Future research should include a more widespread assess-
ment of adults with IDD that includes individuals without
problematic relationship and sexuality issues. Additional re-
search should include their perception around the concepts of
dating, sexuality, and adulthood. As noted earlier, one individ-
ual self-identified with a child in the photo based on similarity
in their clothing; in this case, it may be that the individual did
not truly comprehend the question posed and simply chose the
child due to clothing rather than developmental age differences.
Additionally, when doing any form of intervention and/or re-
search with individuals that have IDD or any other form of
cognitive disability, it is important to first learn what their un-
derstanding of words and/or concepts is.
This research demonstrates one step towards opening up the
conversation with adults with IDD to further engage them in
thinking about their self-perception and identity in terms of
their relationships, including relationships that are intimate and
also their understanding about human development. Self-per-
ception is an important piece to successfully transition into
adulthood in terms of overall human development: social, psy-
chological, and biological development. Relationship building
hinges on individuals’ abilities to accept growth, as well as
explore beyond themselves by connecting with others.
Thanks to Dr. Sharon Lyter for her oversight and assistance.
Badura, A. (1986 ). Human agency in social cognitiv e theory. American
Psychologist, 37, 1175-1182.
Badura, A. (1 977). Socia l learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Pren-
tice Hall.
Bem, S. (1981). Gender sche ma theory: A co gnitive acco unt of s ex typ-
ing. Psychological Review, 88, 354-364.
Bogdan, R. C., & Biklen, S. K. (1992). Qualitative research in educa-
tion (2nd Ed.). Boston: Allyn & B acon.
Bruess, C. E., & Greenberg, J. S. (1994). Sexuality education: Theory
and Practice (3rd Ed.). Madison, WI: WCB Brown & Benchmark,
Davis, L. V. (1 9 8 6). S o cial w or k trea tment: Inter locking theoretical ap-
proaches (3rd Ed.). New York: The Free Press.
Erikson, E. (1 982). The l ife cycle completed . New York : W. W. Norton
& Compa ny.
Evans, D. S., McGuire, B. E., Healy, E., & Carley, S. N. (2009). Sex-
uality and personal relatio nships for peop le with intellectual disabili-
ty. Part II: Staff and family care perspectives. Journal of Intellectu al
Disability Research, 53, 913-921.
Evans, D. W. (1998). Develop ment of the self-concept in children with
mental retardation: Organismic and contextual factors. In J. A. Bu-
rack, R. M. Hodapp, & E. Zigler (Eds.), Handbook of mental retar-
dation and development. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Field, S., & Hoffman, A. (1994). Development of a model for self-
determination. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 17,
Field, S., & Hoffman, A. (2002). Preparing youth to exercise self-de-
termination: Quality indicators of school environments that promote
the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and beliefs related to self-de-
termination. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 13, 113-118.
Fischer, K. W. (1980). A theory of cognitive development: The control
and construction of hierarchies of skills. Psychological Review, 87,
Griffiths, D. M., & Lunsky, Y. (2003). Socio-sexual knowledge and
attitudes assessment tool-revised. Wood Dale. IL: Stoelting Co.
Harter, S. (1986). Cognitive-developmental processes in th e integration
of concepts about emotions and the self. Social Cognition, 4, 119-
Hyde, J. S., & De Lamater, J. D. (20 00). Understanding human sexuali-
ty (7th Ed.). Boston: McGraw Hill.
Jones, J. (2012). Factors as sociated with self-concept: Adoles cents with
intellectual and developmental disabilities share their perspectives.
American Association on Intellectu al and Developmen tal Disabilities,
50, 31-40.
Lewin, K. (1935). A dynamic theory of personality. New York: Mc-
Graw Hill.
Piaget, J. (1972). Intellectual ev olution from adolescence to adulthoo d.
Human Development, 15, 40-47.
Rotter, J. (1954). Social learning and clinical psychology. Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Siebelink, E. M., de Jo ng, M., Taal, E., & Roelv ink, L. (2006). Sexual-
ity and people with intellectual disabilities: Assessment of know-
ledge, attitudes, experiences, and needs. Mental Retardation, 44,
Simon, W., & Gagnon, J. (2003). Sexual scripts: Origins, influences
and changes. Qualitative Sociology, 26, 491-497.
Smith, M. R. (2006). Providing relationship building blocks for adults
with intellectual disability. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Chester,
PA: Widener University.
Smith, M., & Willner, P. (2004). Psychological factors in risk assess-
ment and management of inappropriate sexual behaviour by men
with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Applied Research in Intel-
lectual Disabilities, 17, 285-297.
Steptoe, L., Lindsay, W. R., Forrest, D., & Power, M. (2006). Quality
of life and relationships in sex offenders with intellectual disability.
Journal of Intellectual and Developmental Disability, 31, 13-19.
Symons, D. (1995). Beauty is the adaptation of the beholder: The evo-
lutionary psychology of human female attractiveness. In P. R. Ab-
rams on , & S. D. Pinkerton (Eds.), Sexual nature/sexual culture (pp.
80-118). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
United States Department of Commerce (2013). United States Census
Wagstaff, D. A., Abra mson, P. R., & Pinkerton, S. D. (2000 ). Research
in human sexuality. In L. T. Szuch man, & F. Musca rella (Eds.) , Psy-
chological perspectives on human sexuality (pp. 3-59). New York:
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Ward, M., & Kohler, P. D. (1996). Teaching self-determination: Con-
tent and process. In L. E. Powers, G. H. S. Singer, & J . So w ers (Ed s.) ,
Promoting self-competence in children and youth with disabilities:
On the road to autonomy (pp. 275-322). Baltimore: Brookes.
Wehmeyer, M. L., & Schalo ck, R. (2 001). Self-determination and qual-
ity of life: Implications for special education services and supports.
Focus on Exce ptional Children, 33, 1-16.