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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

Activity Limitation

Activity limitation may result from a chronic physical, mental, emotional, or behavioral condition that prevents a child from participating fully in age-appropriate activities. Age-appropriate activities for children ages 5–17 consist of a child's ability to complete regular school work and perform other activities, including self-care and walking. Activity limitation is a broad measure of functioning affected by a variety of health conditions. The causes of activity limitation most often reported by parents of children ages 5–17 include learning disabilities, speech problems, and other mental, emotional, and behavioral problems.144

Indicator HEALTH5: Percentage of children ages 5–17 with activity limitation resulting from one or more chronic health conditions by gender, 2000–2015
Indicator HEALTH5: Percentage of children ages 5–17 with activity limitation resulting from one or more chronic health conditions by gender, 2000–2015

NOTE: Children are identified as having activity limitation by asking parents (1) whether children receive special education services and (2) whether they are limited in their ability to walk, care for themselves, or participate in other activities. "Activity limitation indicated by participation in special education" only includes children identified solely by their use of special education services. "Activity limitation indicated by all other limitations" includes limitations in self-care, walking, or other activities; children in this category may also receive special education services. Chronic health conditions are conditions that once acquired are not cured or have a duration of 3 months or more.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Health Interview Survey.

  • In 2015, 10 percent of children ages 5–17 were reported by parents to have activity limitation due to chronic conditions. Eight percent of children ages 5–17 were identified as having activity limitation solely by their participation in special education. Two percent of children ages 5–17 were identified as having an activity limitation by their participation in special education or by limitations in their ability to walk, care for themselves, or participate in other activities.
  • The percentage of children with an activity limitation increased by 2 percentage points between 1997 and 2015. This increase was driven by the percentage of children identified as having activity limitation solely by their participation in special education, which increased from 5 percent in 1997 to 8 percent in 2015.
  • Activity limitation was reported more often for male children (12 percent) than for female children (7 percent) in 2015. Boys were also more likely than girls to participate in special education (10 percent of males versus 6 percent of females).
  • In 2015, Hispanic children (8 percent) were less likely than White, non-Hispanic (11 percent) children to have an activity limitation. Reported activity limitation for Black, non-Hispanic children (9 percent) was not significantly different from that of the other racial and ethnic groups.

table icon HEALTH5 HTML Table

144 Houtrow, A. J., Larson, K., Olson, L. M., Newacheck, P. W., & Halfon, N. (2014). Changing trends of childhood disability, 2001–2011. Pediatrics, 134, 530–538.