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Cheng, Mariah Mantsun & Udry, J. Richard (2003). How Much Do Mentally Disabled Adolescents Know about Sex and Birth Control?. Adolescent and Family Health, 3(1), 28-38.


This paper examines mentally disabled adolescents knowledge of sex and birth control, and whether their parents discuss these matters with them at home. Empirical results are based on 1994-1995 Wave I data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health a stratified, multi-stage, school-based sample of 7th to 12th graders in the United States. Mental disabilities were measured in terms of Add Health Picture Vocabulary Test (AHPVT) scores (lower than 70). Findings suggest that mentally disabled adolescents have little exposure to sex education in school, and their parents tend not to discuss sex, birth control, and pregnancy with them. Their knowledge is largely incorrect. Nonetheless, a significant proportion of them, particularly boys, are sexually active. Among these sexually experienced and men- tally disabled adolescents, a higher percentage of their parents are unaware of their sexual activities, as compared to parents of mentally average adolescents. We conclude that, regardless of much effort, mentally disabled adolescents specific needs for sex education both in school and at homehave not been met. Parents with disabled children need help in implementing sex education at home. More attention should be given to sexual activity among mentally disabled adolescents to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and pregnancy.

Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Adolescent and Family Health


Cheng, Mariah Mantsun
Udry, J. Richard