University of Canterbury
Tuesday 23 April 2013, 01:08PM
Media release from University of Canterbury
Young people who suffer traumatic brain injury can have behavior
problems and a University of Canterbury (UC) adjunct professor is
investigating whether there is evidence of increased risk of
offending behavior among this group of people.
Falls are the most common source of traumatic brain injury (TBI)
for children under 15 and fights, sporting injuries and motor
vehicle accidents are the most common forms of TBI for those over
15. The UC research is in collaboration with Monash University in
Monash's Dr Audrey McKinlay, who is a UC adjunct, says the major
objective is to investigate the number of young people who,
following a TBI in childhood, later suffer mental disorders,
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder,
mood disorders, substance abuse or anxiety.
``These disorders are associated with an increased risk of
offending behaviour, so we also want to find out whether there is
evidence of increased offending behaviour among this population,''
Dr McKinlay says.
``TBI accounts for over three percent of all hospital admissions
and costs the Accident Compensation Corporation around $100 million
a year for post-acute treatment and rehabilitation. Therefore, the
development of interventions aimed at reducing adverse outcomes
will have a major cost benefit.
``A recent ACC report said that in Christchurch city alone, 554
children and young people in 2004 were treated at Christchurch
Hospital for a TBI.
``Behavioural problems are reported as the most difficult TBI
outcome to manage. The resulting unmanaged behaviour commonly leads
to expulsion from school, rejection by peers and difficulties with
``The lack of attention to rehabilitation efforts in the early
stages of recovery makes secondary problems such as disruptive
behaviour, alcohol and substance abuse and youth offending more
likely," Dr McKinlay says.
TBI affects one in five children by the age of 15. When psychiatric
symptoms emerge, the connection with TBI is rarely made. The
mechanisms that result in young people with TBI coming into contact
with youth justice or mental health services remain unknown.
The UC-Monash research will identify environmental, cultural and
individual characteristics of young people with TBI who engage in
antisocial behaviour requiring interventions, and will provide an
opportunity for prevention.
``Identifying the characteristics of individuals with TBI who
become users of mental health and youth justice services will
provide a valuable first step towards development of strategies for
prevention. Early intervention is likely to reduce high costs, but
identification of at risk children is required.
``Our initial research has shown that young people who sustain a
traumatic brain injury, even of only a mild severity, are four to
six times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders such as ADHD
and conduct disorder compared to the general population, especially
if the injury occurs in the pre-school years."
The findings will be reported to the International Brain Injury
Association, the Australian Society for the Study of Brain
Impairment and at the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologist
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