Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Special Education and Rehabilitation

Committee Chair(s)

Jared Schultz


Jared Schultz


Kathleen Marie Oertle


Timothy Slocum


Troy Beckert


Keith Christensen


Adolescents with developmental disabilities (DD) experience regular physical and sexual development. Some adolescents with developmental disabilities engage in problematic sexual behaviors (PSB). In order to be able to address the needs of this population in terms of prevention of PSB, and provision of effective treatment after PSB has begun, their experience must be understood and contributing factors identified. It is with this in mind that this study was designed, with the purpose being the exploration of the experiences of adolescents with DD who have engaged in sexually problematic behaviors, including compulsive or addictive patterns of behavior, and to identify the contributing factors for engaging in these behaviors. A grounded theory approach with a directed analysis component was used. Eleven participants were interviewed including five persons with developmental disabilities (PWDD) and six parents regarding the experiences of seven different individuals with DD who have engaged in PSB. Results of this study indicate that the presence of a DD increases the complexity of this experience. A model was created to explain the overall process of engaging in PSB as requiring exposure, motivation, opportunity, and deficits in sexual education. In addition, nine different factors were identified that may be contributing factors that increase the risk of an individual with DD engaging in PSB. These results may be of value for parents of children with DD, service providers, and educators.