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Quality of family environment predicts child perceptions of competence 12 months after pediatric traumatic brain injury.

BACKGROUND: Demographic and environmental factors can affect child recovery after traumatic brain injury (TBI); however, little is known about their role in predicting child perceptions of competence (i.e., subjective judgments of ability or a sense of adequacy).

OBJECTIVES: This prospective, cohort study examined the contribution of participant sex, age at assessment, socioeconomic status, parent-reported change in academic performance post-injury, and the quality of a child's relationship with their family (i.e., family affective involvement, intimacy, integration, and the nature of family roles) to child perceptions of global and academic competence 12 months after pediatric TBI.

METHODS: Participants included 127 children, 84 with a TBI (53 mild, 31 moderate-severe TBI; injury age: 5-15 years) and 43 age-matched typically developing (TD) controls. Children rated their perceptions of global and academic competence and degree of family intimacy and integration. Parents completed questionnaires measuring socioeconomic status, family affective involvement, and the nature of family roles. Parents also indicated whether they perceived a change in their child's post-injury academic performance.

RESULTS: Child perceptions of academic competence were significantly lower for children with moderate-severe TBI relative to TD children. In contrast, child perceptions of global competence were comparable between TBI and TD control groups. Socioeconomic status, age at assessment, parent-reported relative change in academic performance post-TBI, and family roles were associated with child perceptions of academic competence. Degree of family integration was the sole predictor of child perceptions of global competence.

CONCLUSIONS: Child perceptions of academic competence are vulnerable to the effects of moderate-severe TBI, particularly among older children and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Well-defined family roles and greater integration of family units might enhance perceptions of global and academic competence in children with TBI.

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