The meaning of leisure for children and young people with physical disabilities: a systematic evidence synthesis

Benita Powrie, Niina Kolehmainen, Merrill Turpin, Jenny Ziviani, Jodie Copley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Participation in leisure has known health benefits. Children and young people (CYP) with physical disabilities demonstrate reduced participation in leisure. To facilitate their meaningful participation, one must understand what leisure means to CYP. The aim of this study was to systematically synthesize evidence from qualitative studies on the meaning of leisure for CYP with physical disabilities.

CINAHL, MEDLINE, AMED, EMBASE, PsycINFO, and ERIC were searched periodically from January 2012 until May 2013. Qualitative studies reporting the views of CYP (0–18y) with physical disabilities on leisure participation were included. The analysis involved thematic syntheses, double coding, and established quality appraisal procedures.

Twelve studies met inclusion criteria, addressing the leisure experiences of 146 CYP with disabilities. Four themes core to the meaning of leisure for these CYP were (1) ‘fun’: the enjoyment and pleasure experienced from leisure; (2) ‘freedom’ of choice and from constraints; (3) ‘fulfilment’: discovering, developing, and displaying potential; and (4) ‘friendship’: social connectedness and belonging.

The identified themes resonate with the psychological needs outlined by self‐determination theory: fun relates to satisfaction and intrinsic motivation; freedom relates to ‘autonomy’; fulfilment relates to a belief in 'competence'; and friendship resonates with ‘relatedness’. Social context had an impact on all of these themes, indicating that this is an important target for leisure participation interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)993-1010
Number of pages18
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number11
Early online date4 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


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