Children and adults with impairments such as cerebral palsy have lower participation in life situations than able-bodied people. Less is known about their subjective perception of their lives, called their quality of life.
During adolescence, rapid physical and psychological changes occur; although these may be more difficult for disabled than for able-bodied adolescents, little research has examined the lives of disabled adolescents.
In 2003-4 a European Union funded project, SPARCLE, visited 818 children aged 8-12 years with cerebral palsy, sampled from population-based registers in nine European regions. The quality of life reported by these disabled children was similar to that of the general population but their participation was lower; levels of participation varied between countries even for children with similar severity of cerebral palsy.
We are currently following up these children, now aged 13-17 years, to identify (i) to what extent contemporaneous factors (pain, impairment, psychological health and parental stress) predict their participation and quality of life, (ii) what factors modify how participation and quality of life at age 8-12 years are associated with participation and quality of life in adolescence, and (iii) whether differences between European countries in participation and quality of life can be explained by variations in environmental factors.
Trained researchers will visit families to administer questionnaires to capture the adolescents' type and severity of impairment, socio-demographic characteristics, participation, quality of life, psychological health, pain, environmental access and parental stress. We will use multivariable models (linear, logistic or ordinal) to assess how adolescent participation, quality of life, psychological health, pain, environmental access and parental stress, vary with impairment and socio-demographic characteristics and, where possible, how these outcomes compare with general population data. For participation and quality of life, longitudinal analyses will assess to what extent these are predicted by corresponding levels in childhood and what factors modify this relationship. Structural equation modelling will be used to identify indirect relationships mediated by other factors.