Psychosocial wellbeing, parental concerns, and familial impact of children with developmental coordination disorder

Vincent O. Mancini, Melissa K. Licari, Gail A. Alvares, Matthew C. McQueen, Sarah McIntyre, Jess E. Reynolds, Siobhan L. Reid, Alicia J. Spittle, Jacqueline Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a neurodevelopmental condition impacting motor skill acquisition and competence. While previous studies have identified adverse psychosocial outcomes in DCD, they are limited by small or population-screened, community-based samples. Aims: To understand the psychosocial difficulties, parental concerns, and familial impacts of childhood DCD in a large population-based sample. Methods and procedures: Parents of 310 children aged 4 – 18 years with a diagnosis of DCD (or synonymous term) completed the Impact for DCD survey. Parent-rated measures of emotional problems, peer problems, and prosocial behaviour were compared to normative data. Parental concerns for the impact of DCD on participation, interaction, emotional well-being, and the family system were examined. Outcomes and results: Compared to typically developing children, children with DCD were rated significantly higher for emotional and peer problems, and significantly lower for prosocial behaviours. Parents most commonly reported concerns for their child's future and withdrawal from physical activity. The presence of one or more co-occurring disorders did not significantly influence outcomes. Conclusion and implications: Findings highlight the poor psychosocial outcomes for children with DCD. Crucially, poor psychosocial outcomes were just as likely in those with a single diagnosis of DCD as those with DCD and multiple co-occurring diagnoses. Parents reported concerns for their child (i.e., non-participation and social withdrawal) that are not targeted in existing DCD intervention modalities and emphasised the impact of DCD on the whole family unit. What this paper adds: This paper presents data from the largest parent-reported survey of children with a known diagnosis of DCD (or synonymous labels). It highlights the significant impact of DCD on psychosocial outcomes in children across age groups. The children in this study were rated by their parents to have significantly higher levels of emotional and peer problems, and lower prosocial behaviours, than similarly aged Australian children without DCD. It also challenges the misconception that poor psychosocial outcomes in DCD are the result of co-occurring disorders, with outcomes observed to be as poor in children with a sole diagnosis of DCD in this sample. Furthermore, findings highlighted the significant worry and concern that parents with DCD face, particularly around their child's participation and their emotional health. Finally, parents reported on the considerable impact that DCD had on their family unit, regularly causing worry and concern, influencing their choice of activities, and causing financial strain. These concerns and impacts are not addressed in current intervention models for DCD and highlight the need for support mechanisms moving forward.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104659
JournalResearch in Developmental Disabilities
Early online date30 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


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