Aspects of Sexuality During Development in Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Valentina Postorino
  • Martina Siracusano
  • Giulia Giovagnoli
  • Luigi MazzoneEmail author
Part of the Trends in Andrology and Sexual Medicine book series (TASM)


Sexuality is a central dimension of a person’s physical and psychological development, and it plays a fundamental role in shaping the individual’s self-identity. Although individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience the same aspects of sexual life (e.g., needs, desires, sex driven) as their peers, core symptoms of autism (i.e., deficits in social communication and social interaction) may impact on their ability to develop romantic and sexual relationships. For example, lack of social awareness and skills and deficits in theory of mind can lead these individuals to engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors (e.g., public masturbation, excessive masturbation, stalking) and put them in danger of experiencing sexual abuse and victimization. This imbalance between physical and social maturation becomes particularly clear during adolescence, when individuals start to develop friendships and start to have their first romantic and sexual relationships. In this chapter we examine characteristics of sexual development in ASD. Examination of the relationship between core symptoms of ASD and sexual relationships in children and adolescents with ASD may help clinicians disentangle factors likely associated with sexual well-being of individuals with ASD, in order to plan proactive prevention and intervention.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valentina Postorino
    • 1
  • Martina Siracusano
    • 2
  • Giulia Giovagnoli
    • 3
  • Luigi Mazzone
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Brain and Body Integration Mental Health ClinicDenverUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neurosciences, Child Neurology and Psychiatry UnitTor Vergata University Hospital of RomeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Scientific Neuropsychiatric Center “Aita”RomeItaly

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