Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders

, Volume 46, Issue 11, pp 3519–3556 | Cite as

Sexuality in High-Functioning Autism: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Laura A. PecoraEmail author
  • Gary B. Mesibov
  • Mark A. Stokes
Original Paper


Preliminary research examining sexuality within High-Functioning Autism (HFA) has been yet to consider the impact sex may have on the sexual/romantic functioning of this population. A systematic database search was carried out to identify 27 observational and cross-sectional publications meeting predetermined inclusion criteria. Using standardised mean differences, a random-effects meta-analysis pooled data from 9 eligible studies. Exhibiting higher levels of sexual understanding, females with HFA were subject to more adverse sexual experiences than males with HFA and neurotypical counterparts. Males reported greater desire for, and engagement in both solitary and dyadic sexual contact. Findings have provided initial insight into characterising the sexuality of males and females with HFA, yet also necessitated the need for future research in the field.


Autism spectrum disorder High-functioning autism Sexuality Female profile Systematic review and meta-analysis 



Author Contributions

All authors contributed to the analytic methods and written work presented in this paper. LP and MS conceived, and participated in the design of the study. LP conducted all systematic search and meta-analysis procedures, and drafted the original manuscript. GM provided expertise regarding the study, critically evaluated all key sections of the review, and assisted in drafting the manuscript. MS oversaw all analyses, participated in the interpretation of data, reviewed, and was involved in the write up of all drafts. All authors were involved in the final revisions and approval of the published manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

This study has been approved by the Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee (Project ID: 2014-210). As this article was a review of a number of primary publications, it did not directly conduct research on human participants. However, of the procedures performed in included studies that did involve human participants, all were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

As this was a review article, formal consent of participants was not required. However, informed consent was obtained from all parents and carers of/individual participants in each of the studies reviewed in this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura A. Pecora
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gary B. Mesibov
    • 2
  • Mark A. Stokes
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Psychology, Faculty of HealthDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  2. 2.Division TEACCHUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA

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