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Journal article review: Peer-relationship difficulties in children with brain injuries

Dr Carolyn DunfordPeer-relationship difficulties in children with brain injuries: Comparisons with children in mental health services and healthy controls - reviewed by Dr Carolyn Dunford

This article examined the prevalence of peer relationship difficulties in three groups of children; children who are typically developing, children who have an acquired brain injury and children using mental health services.

Brain injury can result in changes in social and emotional behaviour resulting in a range of mental health disorders. Impulsivity and disinhibition are common sequelae following brain injuries. All of these factors can interfere with peer relationships which are an essential aspect of well-being and can protect young people from depression.

This study aimed to compare the levels of peer relationship difficulties and emotional distress between samples of children with acquired brain injury (n=47), an age matched control group who are using Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) (n=27) and a group of healthy controls (n=137).

Data was collected using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire parent version (Goodman, 1999) with specific items identified as pertaining to peer relationships or emotional distress.

There were significant differences between the controls and children with acquired brain injuries (ABI) and those attending CAMHS services. The levels of emotional distress and peer relationship difficulties were significantly higher in the ABI and CAMHS samples. However the children and young people with ABI were generally not receiving services or interventions to address their difficulties.

 

Relevance to occupational therapy practice

Children and young people referred to occupational therapy CAMHS teams may have difficulties resulting from an acquired brain injury and this should be routinely investigated. Interventions aimed at enabling children to participate in positive peer relationships may provide them with “an essential resource”. Peer relationships can have positive influences on mental health.

Full reference: Tonks, J. Yates, P. Williams, W.H.  Frampton, I. Slater, A. (2010) Peer-relationship difficulties in children with brain injuries: Comparisons with children in mental health services and healthy controls. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation 20 (6), 922–935