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07-02-2021 | Review | Uitgave 5/2021

Quality of Life Research 5/2021

What is QOL in children and adolescents with physical disabilities? A thematic synthesis of pediatric QOL literature

Quality of Life Research > Uitgave 5/2021
Nikki Ow, Adriana Appau, Mohamad Matout, Nancy E. Mayo
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Supplementary Information

The online version contains supplementary material available at https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11136-021-02769-6.
PROSPERO registration number: CRD42019128310.

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Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.



Many neuromotor conditions affect children from a young age through to adulthood, impacting their quality of life (QOL). For QOL to be accurately measured in these children, pediatric QOL must first be conceptualized. Some theoretical models and definitions have been proposed to understand QOL, but they were not developed for the pediatric population. The purpose of this review is to build on existing frameworks of QOL and develop a framework and definition of pediatric QOL for measurement purposes, by integrating the findings of multiple qualitative studies involving children and adolescents with physical disabilities.


A systematic search was conducted on four databases. Inclusion criteria were qualitative studies with participants with common neurological and neuromuscular conditions. The content of studies had to involve the lived experiences of children and adolescents with disabilities. Thematic synthesis was conducted.


48 studies were included. Results generated a schema of the causes and the mitigators of QOL. This  consisted of casual indicators of QOL, mitigators, and components of QOL. Themes under QOL included thoughts and feelings, fitting in, self-image, about the future, and independence. A new framework and definition of pediatric QOL were proposed.


In conclusion, pediatric QOL for children with disabilities is formed by their thoughts and feelings, being accepted by society, being able to forge an identity that is beyond their disability, having autonomy, and having a hope for the future. The resulting QOL framework proposed here can also aid future development of QOL measures in children with physical disabilities.

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