Long-term outcome from childhood traumatic brain injury: intellectual ability, personality, and quality of life

Neuropsychology. 2011 Mar;25(2):176-84. doi: 10.1037/a0021217.


Objective: Only a handful of studies have attempted to explore very long-term outcomes from childhood traumatic brain injury (TBI). These studies have generally failed to fully consider the impact of injury severity or employ measures sensitive to the survivor's day-to-day function. This study examined outcomes in adulthood, with a focus on functional abilities including education, employment, and quality of life (QOL), and employed predictors including injury severity, age at injury, socioeconomic factors, intelligence, and personality.

Method: The study was retrospective and cross-sectional and included 50 adult survivors of child TBI (31 males), aged 19-30 years at evaluation (M = 24.2, SD = 3.6), with injury on average 13.3 years prior to evaluation. Participants were divided according to injury severity-mild (n = 20), moderate (n = 12), and severe (n = 18)-completed an intellectual evaluation and questionnaires regarding educational and employment status, personality, and quality of life.

Results: Intellectual and personality measures indicated good outcomes, with mean scores for all groups in the average range and few severity-based findings. In contrast, those with more severe TBI were more likely to have educational and employment problems. QOL was significantly reduced in the context of severe insult, with lower IQ and personality factors most predictive of outcome in this domain. Mild and moderate TBI were generally more benign.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that, while TBI is a lifelong problem, its impact is most dramatic in the domain of QOL, where a complex interaction occurs between injury factors, cognition, and personality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Injuries / psychology*
  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intelligence / physiology*
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Personality Tests
  • Personality*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Quality of Life*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult