The first study compared the social, intellectual, and behavioral functions of 53 children who had experienced a traumatic brain injury before the age of three, most of which were the result of falls, with 27 children of the same age who had never sustained a TBI.
The authors write that while a severe TBI was associated with lowered intellectual function, the socioeconomic status of the child's family may be a more powerful predictor of the child's intellectual development. They cannot fully explain why, but they suggest lower socioeconomic status, high parental stress and low parental involvement has an effect on a child's recovery.
The study also found that mild, less traumatic injuries, similar to those commonly sustained from short falls, had no negative effect on any of the child's functions.
The second prospective study, which was conducted at the same children's hospital in Australia, looked at 40 children who had sustained a TBI at some point between the ages of two and seven.
More of the injuries were sustained from motor vehicle or pedestrian accidents than were in the first study and therefore the children had more severe TBIs in this study. The researchers examined the children immediately after the injury, and then again 12 months, 30 months, and ten years later.
Children in this study who suffered a mild traumatic injury recovered well and didn't face a dramatic deficit in their intellectual abilities, similar to what was seen in the first study. Researchers also found children with severe TBI had problems with their intellectual, behavioral, and social development. More specifically, children with severe traumatic brain injuries seemed to lag behind their peers in intellectual development for upwards of three years after their injury.
Image: Young boy in a hospital bed, via Shutterstock.