Sexuality and Disability

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

Sexual Self-esteem and Body Image of South African Spinal Cord Injured Adolescents

  • Cheryl-Ann Potgieter
  • Gadija Khan


Although adolescents sustain a large portion of spinal cord injuries, the area of spinal cord injured adolescents and the issues surrounding their sexuality are under-researched. This is the first South African study on the sexuality of spinal cord injured adolescents and attempts to address this paucity. It is generally postulated that the sexuality of adolescents who have sustained SCI will be detrimentally affected by the consequences of having a physical disability, resulting in developmental lags relative to non-disabled peers. The focus of this article is to explore the impact of spinal cord injury on adolescent’s sexual self-esteem and body image. A qualitative study was conducted, with data being collected via in-depth individual interviews, which were subsequently analyzed thematically. A disparity was found between dominant ableist discourses of the SCI adolescent as a sexually immature and passive spectator, and the lived experiences of the participants involved in the study. The study concluded that entrenched socially constructed attitudes appear to limit the opportunities for spinal cord injured adolescents to express their sexuality more than the limitations by their disabilities.


Spinal cord injury sexuality self-esteem body image adolescence 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, and Chief Research Specialist/Head Gender UnitUniversity of Pretoria Human Sciences Research CouncilPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Gadija Khan does holistic mind and body work in private practiceCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3. HSRC/CYFDPretoriaSouth Africa

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