ICF and ICF-CY lessons learned: Pandora's box of personal factors

Rune J. Simeonsson, Don Lollar, Eva Björck-Åkesson, Mats Granlund, Scott C. Brown, Qiu Zhuoying, David Gray, Yi Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Purpose: The aim of this article is to examine the component of "personal factors" described as a contextual factor in the ICF and ICF-CY. Methods: A critical examination of the construct of "personal factors" and description of the component was made with reference to conceptual and taxonomic criteria. Results: The "personal factors" component in the ICF/ICF-CY is not defined, there is no taxonomy of codes, there is no explicit purpose stated for its use and no guidelines are provided for its application. In spite of these constraints, the component of "personal factors" is being applied as part of the classifications. Such uncontrolled applications constitute significant risks for the status of ICF/ICF-CY as the WHO reference classification in that: (a) the component is accepted for use by default simply by being applied; (b) component content is expanded with idiosyncratic exemplars by users; and (c) there is potential misuse of "personal factors" in documenting personal attributes, including "blaming the victim". Conclusion: In the absence of formal codes, any application of the component of "personal factors" lacks the legitimacy that documentation with a scientific taxonomy should provide. Given the growing use of the ICF/ICF-CY globally, a priority for the revision process should be to determine if there is in fact need for "personal" or any other factors in the ICF/ICF-CY.Implications for RehabilitationA central contribution of the ICF/ICF-CY is the universal language of codes for the components of body structure, body function, activities and participation and Environmental Factors.As such the codes provide taxonomical legitimacy and power for documenting dimensions of functioning and disability in clinical and rehabilitation contexts.As there are no codes of "personal factors", there is no basis for documentation of the component.Demographic information, if needed for identification, should be recorded in customary formats, independent of any component or codes of the ICF/ICF-CY.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2187-2194
Number of pages8
JournalDisability and Rehabilitation
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Classification
  • ICF
  • ICF-CY
  • Personal factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation


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