To examine the psychosocial issues related to growing up with a physical disability.
Adolescents with physical disabilities aged 11-16 years were compared with a Canadian national sample of adolescents using the Health Behaviours in School-Aged Children (HBSC), a World Health Organization Cross-National Study survey.
Adolescents with physical disabilities reported good self-esteem, strong family relationships, and as many close friends as adolescents in the national sample. However, adolescents with physical disabilities participated in fewer social activities and had less intimate relationships with their friends. They had more positive attitudes toward school, teachers, and their fellow classmates than the national sample, but fewer had plans for postsecondary education. The majority of adolescents with physical disabilities reported that they had not received information on parenthood, birth control, and sexually transmitted diseases.
There are a number of critical areas of risk for adolescents with physical disabilities to which health promotion efforts should be directed. These include lower levels of peer integration, heightened adult orientation, low educational aspirations, and poor knowledge of sexuality.
We analyze Achieving Health for All: A Framework for Health Promotion with respect to children. Although the document acknowledges the health needs of children, it depicts them as passive beneficiaries of health care efforts taken by others on their behalf. We believe that, like adults, children should become active participants in all of the health-promoting activities proposed in the framework and that they can do so if taught life skills for health which emphasize decision making, coping and community participation skills.