Study aim: This study sought to determine whether premorbid child and family functioning accounts for or moderates group differences in post-concussive symptoms following mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) in childhood.
Methods: This prospective, longitudinal cohort study recruited 8- to 15-year-old children, 186 with mild TBI and 99 with orthopedic injuries (OI), from consecutive emergency department admissions. Parents and children rated post-concussive symptoms within 3 weeks of injury and at 1, 3, and 12 months post injury. Parents also provided retrospective ratings of pre-injury symptoms, as well as of premorbid child behavioral adjustment, overall family functioning, and other stressors and resources in the family environment.
Results: Children with mild TBI reported more post-concussive symptoms than those with OI, as did their parents, although premorbid child behavioral adjustment and symptoms also were significant predictors of post-concussive symptoms. Group differences in somatic symptoms as reported by parents were more pronounced among children from families that were higher functioning and had more environmental resources.
Discussion: Mild TBI during childhood results in more post-concussive symptoms than OI, even after children's premorbid adjustment is taken into account. Counter to expectations, post-concussive symptoms following mild TBI may actually be more apparent among children from higher-functioning families with greater resources.
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