Adolescents’ Internalizing Problems Following Traumatic Brain Injury Are Related to Parents’ Psychiatric Symptoms

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A small body of previous research has demonstrated that pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) increases risk for internalizing problems, but findings have varied regarding their predictors and correlates.


We examined the level and correlates of internalizing symptoms in 130 teens who had sustained a complicated mild to severe TBI within the past 1 to 6 months. Internalizing problems were measured via both maternal- and paternal-report Child Behavior Checklist. We also measured family functioning, parent psychiatric symptoms, and postinjury teen neurocognitive function.


Mean parental ratings of internalizing problems were within the normal range. Depending on informant, 22% to 26% of the sample demonstrated clinically elevated internalizing problems. In multiple and binary logistic regression models, only parent psychiatric symptoms consistently provided unique prediction of teen internalizing symptoms. For maternal but not paternal report, female gender was associated with greater internalizing problems.


Parent and teen emotional problems are associated following adolescent TBI. Possible reasons for this relationship, including the effects of TBI on the family unit, are discussed.

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