Childhood Traumatic Brain Injury and the Associations With Risk Behavior in Adolescence and Young Adulthood: A Systematic Review

J Head Trauma Rehabil. Nov/Dec 2017;32(6):425-432. doi: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000289.


Objective: To systematically review the evidence that childhood traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with risk behavior in adolescence and young adulthood. Risk behavior included one or more of the following: use of substances, including alcohol, tobacco, and illicit substances; involvement in criminal behavior; and behavioral issues with conduct.

Methods: A literature search was conducted using these terms: child, pediatric, traumatic brain injury, head injury, adolescent, psychosocial, antisocial, conduct, substance use. Studies describing original research were included if they reported outcomes over the age of 13 years in participants who sustained a TBI between birth and age 13 years.

Results: Six journal articles were reviewed based on 4 separate studies. Three articles indicated a relationship between childhood TBI and increased problematic substance use in adolescence and young adulthood. Three articles supported an association between childhood TBI and later externalizing behavior; however, 2 articles did not support this link.

Conclusion: More research is warranted to explore the association between childhood TBI and later risk behavior as the relationship is not currently understood. Future research should build on existing longitudinal research with continued use of medical records for identifying TBI and inclusion of a non-brain-related trauma group to control for general injury effects.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / psychology*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / rehabilitation
  • Child
  • Criminal Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult