When an individual suffers from a brain injury, the resulting cognitive, physical, social, and psychological effects often create challenges for that person. Other family members may also be affected, including spouses and children. A recent study investigated the emotional and behavioral impact on children when a parent has a severe acquired brain injury (ABI). ABI can result from trauma, illness, infection, brain tumors, or other conditions.

The study involved 25 couples that included one spouse who was affected by ABI, and their 35 children, ages three to 14 years. The children attended three sessions with a psychologist to identify their spontaneous playing and relational behavior through a grid created on the basis of ICD-10 criteria.

ICD-10 is the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). ICD is a medical classification list created by the World Health Organization (WHO). It contains codes for diseases, signs and symptoms, abnormal findings, complaints, social circumstances, and external causes of injury or diseases. The ICD is the standard diagnostic tool for epidemiology, health management, and clinical purposes. It is used to monitor the incidence and prevalence of diseases and other health problems, according to WHO. Sections F90 to F98 of the ICD-10 cover “Behavioral and Emotional Disorders with Onset Usually Occurring During Childhood and Adolescence.”

In the course of the study, in addition to the children attending sessions, both parents attended a session with the psychologist, who administered the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the 36-item Health Survey and the Caregiver Burden Inventory.

The Dyadic Adjustment Scale is a self-report measure of relationship adjustment that is often used during marriage therapy. The 36-item Health Survey is a quality-of-life measure that relies upon patient self-reporting and is used for monitoring and assessment of care outcomes in adult patients. The Caregiver Burden Inventory is a measure of the burden felt by an individual who is a caretaker to another person.

The results of the study indicated that 63 percent of the children showed signs of “emotional suffering.” The presence of this symptom was underestimated by their parents, on the basis of the psychologist’s assessments. The quality of the parents’ relationships correlated with the children’s psychological condition.

The study confirmed the need for early intervention for both parents and their children to investigate the children’s emotional-affective situation following a parent’s ABI and to encourage parents’ understanding.