Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1721–1731 | Cite as

The Scope and Future Direction of Child Life

  • Sandra Lookabaugh
  • Sharon M. BallardEmail author
Original Paper


Child life specialists work in a variety of healthcare settings and help children and families to cope with stress through play, preparation, and education. The purpose of this study was to examine the current scope of child life practice. Child life specialists (N = 147), recruited through the listserv of the Association of Child Life Professionals (formerly the Child Life Council), responded to an online survey that examined demographics, work environments and settings, the range of services provided, and perceived levels of competence in providing these services. Results indicate that the typical child life professional is a Caucasian female age 34 years, has a bachelor’s degree in child life or human development and family studies, is employed full-time in a children’s hospital as a certified child life specialist, and has 9 years of experience in the child life field. Respondents indicated that they perform a wide range of activities and feel competent in performing the majority of these activities. However, gaps in academic preparation such as more knowledge about death and dying and increased skills in working with diverse families were identified. Additionally, respondents felt supported, yet, a lack of awareness of child life persists.


Child life Child life profession Family-centered care Hospital Play Specialist 


Author Contributions

S.L. designed and executed the study, assisted with the data analyses, and co-wrote the paper, S.M.B. assisted with design and execution of the study, conducted data analyses, and co-wrote the paper.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The study was approved by the institutional review board at East Carolina University. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Development and Family ScienceEast Carolina UniversityGreenvilleUSA

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