Traumatic Brain Injury in a Paediatric Population

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Clinical Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Sian Olivia Trenchard


Traumatic Brain Injury in a Paediatric PopulationSian Olivia TrenchardDoctor of Clinical PsychologyThe University of ManchesterMarch 2013This thesis examined neuropsychological and psychological outcomes following paediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI). The introductory chapter provides an overview of the paediatric TBI literature, giving definitions of key terms and concepts and providing a description of the epidemiology of childhood head injury. Key models relevant to paediatric TBI are introduced, including developmental neurological, cognitive and psychological perspectives. This is followed by a discussion of factors pertinent to outcome after TBI, followed by a description of outcomes relating to cognitive, behavioural, psychological, adaptive and family functioning domains. Existing research demonstrates that poor outcomes are frequently observed in paediatric TBI populations across these domains and difficulties are persistent over time, particularly where children have sustained severe head injury. Thus, research has turned its focus to the prediction of outcomes which can assist clinicians in the identification of those individuals who will require rehabilitation in order to promote their long-term recovery. Whilst the literature has identified injury and demographic factors that can assist in this process, little attention has been given to the potential utility of psychological screening assessment. Given the prevalence of neuropsychological and psychosocial problems after paediatric TBI and lack of empirical data considering factors predictive of difficulty at the post-acute phase, this research aimed to consider the clinical utility of completing a pre-discharge screening assessment in children and adolescents with TBI. Specific areas of consideration included the potential impact of injury severity on neuropsychological functioning, psychosocial impairment and return to full-time schooling. The study design comprised a prospective case series of 11 children and adolescents with TBI (aged 7-15 years), who were assessed both pre- and post-discharge (3-6 month follow-up). Domains of intellectual, emotional, behavioural, and adaptive functioning, health-related quality of life and parenting stress were assessed at both time-points. Clinically significant findings were demonstrated in domains of neuropsychological and psychosocial functioning, particularly for those with a severe TBI. Specifically, ratings of self-reported emotional distress, and parental perceptions of child health-related quality of life were found to be within clinical ranges at pre- and post-discharge for more than half of the participants. The majority of participants with severe injury required further neuropsychological assessment and interventions relating to emotional and/or behavioural management. The post-discharge functioning of this cohort provided preliminary evidence for the clinical utility of cognitive and psychosocial screening after paediatric TBI. The observed level of clinical need, particularly in the severely-injured group indicated that screening was a useful tool for early identification of difficulties, and provided an opportunity for timely intervention. Without screening, children and adolescents with TBI may be discharged to the community without appropriate support in place; raising long-term concerns for the child, family, and the wider social and economic systems. Despite this, further research which explicates these findings within larger samples is required. The discussion chapter reviews these findings in relation to the wider literature, followed by consideration of this study's limitations. The thesis concludes with a description of the clinical implications of the findings and suggested future directions.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Penelope Trayner (Supervisor)
Award date1 Aug 2013