The effect of pediatric traumatic brain injury on behavioral outcomes: a systematic review


Dr Jianghong Liu at School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, 418 Curie Boulevard, Room 426, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4217, USA. E-mail:


Aim  To review systematically the empirical evidence on traumatic brain injury (TBI) during childhood and subsequent behavioral problems.

Method  An initial literature search with keywords ‘brain injury,’‘children,’ and ‘behavior’ was conducted using Web of Knowledge and PubMed databases. Ancestry was also used. Original research studies published between 1990 and February 2012 focusing on behavioral outcomes of children sustaining TBI from ages 0 to 18 years were included.

Results  Fifty studies, varying considerably in methodologies, were included in the review. Findings showed that up to 50% of brain-injured children are at risk for presenting with specific behavioral problems and disorders. These problems may emerge shortly or several years after injury and often persist and even worsen with time. These behavioral impairments appear to be moderated by the family environment.

Interpretation  Survivors of childhood TBI are at risk for developing and sustaining behavioral impairments. Stronger research is needed to identify cognitive and environmental factors that contribute to the onset and maintenance of these problems. Healthcare providers should ensure adequate follow-up and assessment of a child’s behavioral, social, and neurocognitive domains. Caregivers should be encouraged to provide positive environments and parenting styles, which may help reduce chronic behavioral problems after brain injury.