Transitions to adulthood for disabled young people: literature review

A literature review, commissioned by the Scottish Government, of existing Scottish, UK and International evidence on the experiences faced by disabled young people during their transition to adulthood. The review also explores best practice in supporting disabled young people during this time.


A review of the existing evidence on transitions to adulthood was conducted, with a particular focus on what young people, their families and carers (in Scotland and beyond) had said about this process, and the aspects of best practice identified within the literature.

Searches were conducted to identify relevant sources, including:

  • Outputs from relevant stakeholders operating in the fields of disabilities and transitions in Scotland and the wider United Kingdom
  • Research conducted with young people on their experiences, and expressed needs and preferences
  • Academic sources, with a focus on literature reviews, systematic reviews, and meta-reviews

Most sources related to disabled young people, though where appropriate and relevant, sources were also consulted relating to young people with additional support needs and/or chronic conditions where it was established/deemed that the findings were generalisable to transitions more broadly. Within the existing literature there are a range of competing definitions and classifications, and in various instances no definition at all, so we have exercised discretion in selecting relevant sources.

These sources were consulted and, where relevant, notes on their findings were taken and data points recorded. These were subsequently subjected to a thematic analysis, with thematic codes applied. These broadly related to recurring overarching principles identified in transitions and transition-planning, and to specific transitions (within given sectors or fields) where further sub-themes emerged.

On this basis, a comprehensive literature review was produced outlining the key findings of previous research in this field, common experiences and best practice with regards to transitions – both in general and with regards to specific sectors or settings.

The review concludes with some reflections on the relative amount, depth and quality of this information and how it varies between sectors/themes. On this basis, a gap analysis was conducted, identifying areas where evidence and knowledge is more sparse or inconsistent.



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