Determinants of social participation–with friends and others who are not family members–for youths with cerebral palsy.

BACKGROUND: Social participation provides youths with opportunities to develop their self-concept, friendships, and meaning in life. Youths with cerebral palsy (CP) have been reported to participate more in home-based leisure activities and to have fewer social experiences with friends and others than youths without disabilities.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to identify youth, family, and service determinants of the participation of youths with CP in leisure activities with friends and others who are not family members.

DESIGN: The study design was a cross-sectional analysis.

METHODS: The participants were 209 youths who were 13 to 21 years old (52% male), had CP, and were classified in Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) levels I to V as well as their parents. The participants were recruited from 7 children’s hospitals in 6 different states. Youths completed the Children’s Assessment of Participation and Enjoyment in structured interviews. Parents completed the Coping Inventory, Pediatric Outcomes Data Collection Instrument, Family Environment Scale, Measure of Processes of Care, and demographic and service questionnaires. Researchers determined GMFCS levels. A sequential multiple regression analysis was used to determine the youth, family, and service variables that predicted participation with friends and with others who were not family members.

RESULTS: Sports and physical function, communication or speech problems, educational program, and the extent to which the desired community recreational activities were obtained explained 45.8% of the variance in the number of activities engaged in with friends. A higher level of parental education explained 6.3% of the variance in the number of activities engaged in with others who were not family members. Limitations The youths’ activity preferences and intensity of participation were not examined.

CONCLUSIONS: Youth and service characteristics were determinants of participation with friends but not others who were not family members. The findings have implications for the role of physical therapists in promoting sports and physical and communication abilities and enhancing community opportunities to optimize the social participation of youths with CP.