The physical literacy of children with behavioural and emotional mental health disorders: A scoping review

Kathryn Fortnum, Bonnie Furzer, Siobhan Reid, Ben Jackson, Catherine Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Mental Health Disorders (MHDs) affect 20% of children and youth. To improve long-term physiological and psychological health outcomes for children with MHDs, regular physical activity (PA) participation is essential. Physical literacy, comprising physical competence, PA-related knowledge and understanding, and perceptions of motivation and confidence, may aid understanding of the PA behaviours of children with MHDs. The purpose of this scoping review was to establish the physical literacy levels of children with MHDs.

Scoping Review. Database searches of Medline, Scopus, Embase, PsycINFO and Sportdiscus were conducted for publications from 1985 to 2018. Broad search terms included: diagnosis; physical literacy; PA; physical competence; confidence; motivation; knowledge and understanding. All studies that examined the individual components of physical literacy of children aged 6–12 with behavioural and emotional disorders (F90-97, ICD-10), or depression were included.

26,940 articles were identified. Following title, abstract and full text review, 68 articles were included. Physical competence was addressed in 62 articles, indicating children with MHDs display poor motor proficiency but comparable body composition to children without MHDs. Twelve articles focused on daily PA behaviour, with lower PA levels evident in children with MHDs. Limited evidence indicated motivation and confidence (n = 2 articles), and knowledge and understanding (n = 1 article), are lower in children with MHDs. The majority of studies (n = 52) were conducted on children with ADHD.

Broadly, children with MHDs have lower physical literacy than children without MHDs so may require greater levels of support and tailored evidence based-interventions to become physically literate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-131
Number of pages37
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


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