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Open Access Study protocol

Study protocol: SPARCLE – a multi-centre European study of the relationship of environment to participation and quality of life in children with cerebral palsy

Allan Colver* and the SPARCLE* group

Author Affiliations

Professor of Community Child Health, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Trust and School of Clinical Medical Sciences (Child Health), University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Sir James Spence Institute, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:105  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-105

Published: 25 April 2006



SPARCLE is a nine-centre European epidemiological research study examining the relationship of participation and quality of life to impairment and environment (physical, social and attitudinal) in 8–12 year old children with cerebral palsy. Concepts are adopted from the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health which bridges the medical and social models of disability.


A cross sectional study of children with cerebral palsy sampled from total population databases in 9 European regions. Children were visited by research associates in each country who had been trained together. The main instruments used were KIDSCREEN, Life-H, Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire, Parenting Stress Index. A measure of environment was developed within the study. All instruments were translated according to international guidelines. The potential for bias due to non response and missing data will be examined. After initial analysis using multivariate regression of how the data captured by each instrument relate to impairment and socio-economic characteristics, relationships between the latent traits captured by the instruments will then be analysed using structural equation modelling.


This study is original in its methods by directly engaging children themselves, ensuring those with learning or communication difficulty are not excluded, and by studying in quantitative terms the crucial outcomes of participation and quality of life.

Specification and publication of this protocol prior to analysis, which is not common in epidemiology but well established for randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews, should avoid the pitfalls of data dredging and post hoc analyses.