An incidence of brain injury in a child can have adverse effects on the quality of relationships shared between the parent and the child, finds a study.
The findings revealed that concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is particularly high in the preschool years—up to around 2 per cent of children aged 0 to 5 years per year.
“The young brain is particularly vulnerable to injury because the skull is still thin and malleable. In the months following the injury, one of the first visible signs of social difficulties in young children is a decline in their relationship with their parents,” said one of the researchers, Miriam Beauchamp, professor at University of Montreal in Canada.
Given the relatively limited social and cognitive skills of preschoolers, a concussion at this age can slow the development of new abilities, for example, certain communication skills. “It may be due to specific neurological mechanisms, to changes in parenting, or to stress caused by the injury,” said lead author Gabrielle Lalonde, doctoral student at University of Montreal. The study published in the Journal of Neuropsychology, aims to assess the quality of parent-child interactions six months post-injury. The team recruited a group of 130 children aged between 18 months and 60 months and divided them into three categories: children with concussion, children with orthopedic injury (usually a fracture or sprain of the arm or leg) but no concussion, and a control group of non-injured children.
The results revealed that the quality of parent-child interactions of injured children following concussion was significantly reduced compared to non-injured children. Parents should monitor behavioural changes in their child in the weeks that follow the trauma and adjust accordingly during this period.
“If, as parents, you notice the effects of the accident on your own psychological state, or behavioural changes in your child that make them interact differently and that persist more than a few weeks, you should talk to your family doctor or a neuropsychologist,” Beauchamp suggested.