Physical Activity and Children in Care: A Scoping Review of Barriers, Facilitators, and Policy for Disadvantaged Youth

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Thomas Quarmby
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Katie Pickering
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It is argued that regular engagement in physical activity (PA) has the potential to mitigate the negative health and educational outcomes that disadvantaged children living in care frequently face. However, little is currently known about children in care’s participation in PA. This scoping review primarily aimed to identify barriers and facilitators to PA participation for children in care.


The main phases of the scoping review were 1) identifying relevant studies; 2) selecting studies based on predefined inclusion criteria; 3) charting the data; and 4) collating, summarizing, and reporting the results. All relevant studies were included in the review regardless of methodological quality and design.


The 7 articles that met the inclusion criteria were published between 1998 and 2013 and conducted in the USA (3), England (2), and Norway (2). A social ecological model was incorporated to map results against levels of influence.


Various factors influence PA engagement for children in care. Barriers include low self-efficacy, instability of their social environment, which impacts on schooling and maintaining friendship groups, and, specific institutional practices and policies that may prevent access to PA. Before fully considering policy implications, further research with children in care is warranted in this area.

Quarmby ( and Pickering are with the Carnegie School of Sport, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK.

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