The effect of caregiver traumatic brain injury on children’s long-term functioning. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree NameMaster of Science
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common and debilitating event affecting millions of individuals globally. Although one-third of TBI patients are believed to have dependent children, the long-term impact of the injury on children is unknown. Due to patients experiencing persistent difficulties following injury, many children will likely face consequences to their own mental health following parental TBI. The current study investigated the long-term adaptive functioning, psychological problems and life satisfaction of adults exposed to parental TBI in childhood (age < 18), compared to same-aged norms. Additionally, this study examined whether experiencing a parent with TBI during childhood, would predict clinical levels of mental health problems, adaptive functioning and satisfaction with life in early adulthood. The sample consisted of 253 first year undergraduate students, aged between 18-33 years old who completed self-report questionnaires to collect caregiver and self TBI history and to assess adaptive functioning, psychological problems and life satisfaction. Participants who were affected by parental TBI in childhood reported significantly higher scores for internalising, externalising and total psychological problems and reduced satisfaction with life in adulthood compared to same-aged norms. There was a significantly higher proportion of respondents meeting clinical diagnostic criteria for total psychological problems, externalising problems and life satisfaction by those who reported exposure to parental TBI in childhood compared to the normative sample. There were no significant differences in scores or the proportion meeting clinical criteria for adaptive functioning or substance use for the those with caregivers who had TBI compared to the control group. Exposure to parental TBI in childhood was a risk factor for clinical levels of psychopathology with those affected more likely to report clinical scores for adaptive functioning (OR = 6.27), externalising problems (OR = 10.72), total mental health problems (OR = 6.41) and satisfaction with life (OR = 3.68), compared to same-aged norms. Children affected by parental TBI in childhood report increased psychological problems and poorer satisfaction with life compared to same-aged norms. These results provide evidence for parental TBI as a predictor of clinical levels of psychological functioning in adulthood and a promising foundation for future research and policy to consider parental TBI as an adverse childhood experience (ACE).