Self versus family ratings of the frontal systems behaviour scale and measured executive functions: adult outcomes following childhood traumatic brain injury

Robert D Barrett, Tracey L McLellan, Audrey McKinlay
PloS One 2013, 8 (10): e76916
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) frequently occurs during childhood and adolescence with long-term neuropsychological and behavioral effects. Greater personal awareness of injury is associated with better outcomes. However, personal awareness is often assessed using ratings obtained from family members or significant others. Surprisingly, the accuracy of family-ratings compared with self-ratings has not been well studied in the TBI population. Thus, the purpose of this study was to examine self versus family-ratings of frontal dysfunction and secondly, the association between self/family reported frontal dysfunction and measured executive function outcomes. A total of 60 participants, approximately 10 years post-TBI, comprised 3 groups including; moderate/severe TBI (N=26; mean age 22.9, SD=3.0), mild TBI (N=20; mean age, 21.7, SD=2.7), and control (N=14: mean age, 21.6, SD=3.7). Neuropsychological testing was used to obtain domain scores for executive function and working memory/attention for each participant, and nominated family members and participants with TBI were asked to complete the Frontal Systems Behaviour Scale (FrSBe), consisting of three sub-scales; apathy, disinhibition, and executive dysfunction. Using the FrSBe there was no significant difference between the groups in executive function score, but the moderate/severe and mild groups had significantly lower working memory/attention scores compared with the control group (p<0.05). Repeated measures analysis of variance showed higher self-ratings on all sub-scales compared with family in each group (p<0.05). Scores on executive function and working memory/attention domains correlated with self, but not family reported executive dysfunction. Self-rated executive dysfunction explained 36% of the variance in executive function (p<0.001). While agreement between self-rated and family-rated total FrSBe scores was significant in all groups (p<0.001), our results showed that self-ratings were of higher predictive utility for executive functioning compared with family ratings. Further, at 10 years post-TBI, patients show greater awareness of deficits compared with family who rate consistently closer to the normal functioning range.

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