Describe how socio-cultural factors and religious beliefs can influence an individual’s sexual development

Socio-cultural factors that can influence an individual’s sexual development are manifold. During childhood, ideas, views and opinions relating to sexuality will be learned from immediate family. This can include topics such as gender roles, contraception, sex before marriage or promiscuity. Children will be heavily influenced by what they see in the family home. Habitual norms will also influence a child’s sexuality such as marriage, single-parent families, cohabitation and same-sex partnerships.

As a child gets older, their sexual development will be influenced by groups outside of the family home such as friends, teachers and the media. Individuals that go to same-sex schools may have difficulty mixing with the opposite gender in later life and individuals that are ‘sheltered’ by their loved ones may not have the opportunities to grow sexually. The media may present ideas about sexuality that lead to stereotypes.

Religion can also play an important part in sexual development as the ethical and moral codes of many religions have strong views about promiscuity, sex before marriage and homosexuality. This can lead to an individual having conflicting views about sexuality.

Individuals with learning disabilities in particular may have reduced chances of normal sexual development as they may be excluded from sex education and taught that sex is a taboo in an effort by their loved ones to ‘protect’ them despite it being obviously discriminatory.

Describe how genetic factors can influence the sexual development, sexual expression and sexual health of an individual with a learning disability

In genetics, the sex chromosomes determine whether an individual is male or female. An individual will get an X-chromosome from their mother and a second X-chromosome from their father if they are a female (XX). Males get an X-chromosome from their mother and a Y-chromosome from their father (XY). Therefore, sexual development is based on genes.

 

Variations on chromosomes can lead to variations in the sexual development and sexual expression of an individual. For example, if a male has an extra X-chromosome (XXY) they will have biological features resembling a female and if a male has an extra Y-chromosome (XYY) they will be taller and often have a learning disability. There are other genetic conditions that do not affect an individual’s sexual development but are the cause of a learning disabilities that make it difficult for them to have the cognitive and emotional structure to manage their sexual expression and sexual health in socially acceptable ways. Fragile X syndrome is an example of this.

Explain main sexual development milestones throughout an individual’s lifespan

From birth, babies can experience sexual pleasure from touching their genitals and males can have erections. By around age 2, infants will know their own gender and understand the difference between male and female genetalia. As they get older they will become more curious about sexual subjects.

Pre-adolescence usually occurs between ages 8 and 12 and children will become more self-conscious about their bodies. They will also experience some changes to their bodies including the growth of pubic hair, larger testicles in males and breast buds in female. They will become more interested in sexual subjects and may masturbate although the thought of sexual intercourse is often an unpleasant one.

During the teenage years, children experience puberty as their bodies mature in adulthood and their primary and secondary sexual characteristics develop. Females will experience menstruation and masturbation for both genders will be common. Teenagers will also become more interested in forming romantic and sexual relations.

During adulthood, most people will have a desire for intimate and sexual relations and may wish to have children.

At around age 50, women will experience the menopause, indicating the end of their ability to have children. This may also reduce their sexual desire. Men may also have a reduced desire for sexual relations and may find it more difficult to maintain an erection although they may still be able to father children.