Clinically Significant Behavior Problems During the Initial 18 Months Following Early Childhood Traumatic Brain Injury

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Objective: This study looked at the emergence of clinically significant problems in behavior, executive function skills, and social competence during the initial 18 months following traumatic brain injury (TBI) in young children relative to a cohort of children with orthopedic injuries (OI) and the environmental factors that predict difficulties postinjury. Participants: Children, ages 3–7 years, hospitalized for severe TBI, moderate TBI, or OI were seen shortly after their injury (M = 40 days) and again 6 months, 12 months, and 18 months postinjury. Design: Behavioral parent self-reports, demographic data, family functioning reports, and home environment reports were collected at injury baseline and each time point postinjury. Results: Results suggest that, compared with the OI group, the severe TBI group developed significantly more externalizing behavior problems and executive function problems following injury that persisted through the 18-month follow-up. Minimal social competence difficulties appeared at the 18-month follow-up, suggesting a possible pattern of emerging deficits rather than a recovery over time. Conclusions: Predictors of the emergence of clinically significant problems included permissive parenting, family dysfunction, and low socioeconomic status. The findings are similar to those found in school-age children.

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