Should the Gross Motor Function Classification System be used for children who do not have cerebral palsy?

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2018 Feb;60(2):147-154. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.13602. Epub 2017 Nov 5.


This literature review addressed four questions. (1) In which populations other than cerebral palsy (CP) has the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS) been applied? (2) In what types of study, and why was it used? (3) How was it modified to facilitate these applications? (4) What justifications and evidence of psychometric adequacy were used to support its application? A search of PubMed, MEDLINE, and Embase databases (January 1997 to April 2017) using the terms: 'GMFCS' OR 'Gross Motor Function Classification System' yielded 2499 articles. 118 met inclusion criteria and reported children/adults with 133 health conditions/clinical descriptions other than CP. Three broad GMFCS applications were observed: as a categorization tool, independent variable, or outcome measure. While the GMFCS is widely used for children with health conditions/clinical description other than CP, researchers rarely provided adequate justification for these uses. We offer recommendations for development/validation of other condition-specific classification systems and discuss the potential need for a generic gross motor function classification system.

What this paper adds: The Gross Motor Function Classification System should not be used outside cerebral palsy or as an outcome measure. The authors provide recommendations for development and validation of condition-specific or generic classification systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Palsy / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills / classification*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*