Children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) can have varying degrees of cognitive impairment, and are at risk for social, emotional, and behavioral dysfunction. We undertook an evaluation of social, emotional, and behavioral functioning of youth with NF1 and peers from multiple perspectives. We hypothesized that children with NF1 would have more psychosocial difficulties, which would be positively associated with neurological involvement. We compared 58 children with NF1, ages 7-15, with comparison classroom peers, classmates who were same race/gender and closest date of birth. Peer relationships, emotional well-being, and behavior were evaluated from multiple perspectives in multiple settings. Results showed that teachers perceived children with NF1 as more prosocial (i.e., polite, helpful to others). Teachers and peers viewed children with NF1 as displaying less leadership behavior and as more socially sensitive-isolated (i.e., often left out, trouble making friends). Children with NF1 had fewer friendships and were less well liked by peers. Mothers and fathers reported more problems with social functioning among children with NF1. Few group differences in emotional well-being and behavior were identified according to child and father report. However, mothers perceived children with NF1 to have more emotional problems relative to comparison peers, predominantly among older children. Neurological involvement was significantly related to psychosocial problems. We conclude that children with NF1 are frequently socially isolated and rejected by peers; and that greater neurological involvement is associated with more emotional problems. Central nervous system involvement appears to play a key role in identifying children at risk for problems with friendships, social acceptance, and emotional functioning (i.e., depression).
2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc