‘Love makes me feel good inside and my heart is fixed’: What adults with intellectual disabilities have to say about love and relationships

Michelle McCarthy, Claire Bates, Nicola Elson, Siobhan Hunt, Karen Milne-Skillman, Rachel Forrester–Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Adults with intellectual disabilities have historically been hindered, rather than supported, in their desire to form loving relationships. This paper sought to explore with them what kinds of support they wanted in the 21st Century. Method: Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with 40 adults with intellectual disabilities in the United Kingdom. Results: Participants placed a high value on having a partner and being supported to maintain and develop a loving relationship. The factors which constrained them in achieving this included a lack of social opportunities, barriers created by social care services and limits on them exercising autonomy. Facilitating factors included access to specialist dating agencies, strong family and staff support and opportunities to learn about relationships. Conclusions: The importance of a loving relationship as a source of pleasure and meaning in the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities who are often disadvantaged in many other spheres of life is emphasised.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Early online date25 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2021


  • adults
  • love
  • relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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