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Monday, January 8 2018

Behavioural problems and concussion in preschoolers

Parents should look out for behavioural changes in their children and in themselves

MONTRÉAL, January 8, 2018 – Concussions are a major public health problem due to their high prevalence in teens and athletes who take part in contact sports. Their prevalence is even higher in preschool children because they have a more limited understanding of danger and are therefore more prone to injury. A study conducted by researchers at CHU Sainte-Justine, affiliated with Université de Montréal, and recently published in the Psychological Medicine journal, reveals that even several months after suffering head trauma, behavioral problems are present in children between the ages of 0 and 5 years old. “Even in its most benign form, a concussion that occurs early in a child's development can cause brain disorders that will persist even six months after sustaining the injury. The young brain is still immature and in full development, making it very vulnerable to shock,” indicated Miriam Beauchamp, PhD, Researcher at the CHU Sainte-Justine, Professor of Psychology at Université de Montréal and main author of the study. This research is in response to a previous study that revealed the side effects of youth concussions on the quality of parent-child interpersonal relations, which was featured in the Journal of Neuropsychology.

To determine the adverse consequences of concussions on young children, the research team working under Miriam Beauchamp studied more than 200 children in order to evaluate the presence of behavioral problems six months after the head trauma has occurred. “We asked the mothers to fill out a questionnaire to document a variety of problematic behaviors in their children, which presented themselves either in an internalized manner, such as anxiety or sadness, or a more externalized manner, such as anger or aggressiveness,” said Charlotte Gagner, Doctoral student and first author of the study. The results show that mothers of children who have suffered a concussion report more behavioral problems, both internalized and externalized, than mothers whose children had not been injured or had sustained an injury, but not to the head.

These results suggest that a head injury, even a “mild” one, can lead to brain injuries making the child more susceptible to suffering from anxiety and/or anger, for example. “We also believe that mothers whose children have suffered a shock to the head worry more and therefore are more likely to detect certain subtle behavioral changes that would otherwise go unnoticed,” added Charlotte Gagner. It is interesting to note that there is a strong correlation between children presenting more behavioral problems and parents who describe themselves as being more stressed. This highlights how important it is for parents to take care of their psychological health by reducing sources of stress to maximize the positive impacts in their parent-child relationship and lessen the behavioral consequences concussions have on their child.

 “We now need to determine whether these behavioral problems will lessen over time or, on the contrary, if they will become chronic or more severe. In this respect, we are continuing the study, re-evaluating these same children 18 to 30 months after the incident. Moreover, we are interested in learning whether the father's perception will differ from the mother's for the same types of behavioral problems in their child,” concluded Miriam Beauchamp.

About the study

The article, entitled “Behavioral consequences of mild traumatic brain injury in preschoolers” was published online in the November 2017 edition of the Psychological Medicine journal. The first author is Charlotte Gagner, Doctoral student in neuropsychology, under the direction of Miriam Beauchamp. The main author is Miriam Beauchamp, Researcher at the CHU Sainte-Justine, Neuropsychologist and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, Université de Montréal, Director of the ABCs Development Neuropsychology Laboratory and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University. She received financial assistance for her work from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). She has received a salary award from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS), and her research facilities have the financial support of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

About the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center

The CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center is a leading mother-child research institution affiliated with Université de Montréal. It brings together more than 200 research investigators, including over 90 clinician-scientists, as well as 450 graduate and postgraduate students focused on finding innovative prevention means, faster and less invasive treatments, as well as personalized approaches to medicine. The Center is part of the CHU Sainte-Justine, which is the largest mother-child centre in Canada and second pediatric center in North America. More on research.chusj.org

Source
CHU Sainte-Justine
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Maude Hoffmann
Communications, CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center
communications@recherche-ste-justine.qc.ca

Media resource person:
Mélanie Dallaire
Executive advisor – External communications
CHU Sainte-Justine
Office: 514-345-7707 / Pager: 514-415-5727
melanie.dallaire.hsj@ssss.gouv.qc.ca

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Updated on 1/8/2018
Created on 1/8/2018
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