The impacts of short break provision on families with a disabled child: an international literature review

Janet Robertson, Chris Hatton, Emma Wells, Michelle Collins, Susanne Langer, Victoria Welch, Eric Emerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


There are widespread assumptions about the potential impacts of short breaks on family carers and disabled children. This review aims to evaluate the existing international research evidence concerning the impacts of short breaks on families with a disabled child. Electronic literature searches were conducted using ASSIA, PsycInfo, CINAHL, and Web of Science, and requests for information were sent to selected email lists. Of 60 articles or reports identified for inclusion in the review, the vast majority of studies were cross-sectional, with only eight studies using quasi-experimental pre-post designs or longitudinal designs. Nonetheless, the consistency with which some findings have been reported suggests that short breaks appear to have the potential to positively impact on not only the well-being of carers, but also the children receiving short breaks and their families as a whole. Additional research is warranted in a number of areas. First, research needs to consider the impact of short breaks on fathers. Second, there is a need to consider in more depth how short breaks can impact on the siblings of disabled children. Third, research could consider how best short breaks can be combined with other interventions to maximise the impact for disabled children and their families. Fourth, research needs to look at the longer term impact of short breaks on outcomes for disabled children and their families. What is needed is evidence on what type of short breaks are best for children and families with particular characteristics at particular times during the course of the child's maturation towards adulthood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-371
Number of pages35
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • short breaks
  • disabled children
  • families
  • respite

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