Executive functions and theory of mind as predictors of social adjustment in childhood traumatic brain injury.

Robinson KE, Fountain-Zaragoza S, Dennis M, Taylor HG, Bigler ED, Rubin K, Vannatta K, Gerhardt CA, Stancin T, Yeates KO
J Neurotrauma 31 1835-42 11/15/2014


This study examined whether executive function and theory of mind mediate the effects of pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) on social adjustment, relative to children with orthopedic injury (OI). Participants included 19 children with severe TBI, 41 children with complicated mild/moderate TBI, and 57 children with OI. They completed measures of executive function, as well as cognitive, affective, and conative theory of mind. Parents provided ratings of children's social adjustment. Children with severe TBI performed more poorly than children with OI on executive function and theory of mind tasks and were rated by parents as having more behavioral symptoms and worse communication and social skills. Executive function and theory of mind were positively correlated with social skills and communication skills, and negatively correlated with behavioral symptoms. In multiple mediator models, theory of mind and executive function were not significant direct predictors of any measure of social adjustment, but mediated the association between injury and adjustment for children with severe TBI. Theory of mind was a significant independent mediator when predicting social skills, but executive function was not. TBI in children, particularly severe injury, is associated with poor social adjustment. The impact of TBI on children's social adjustment is likely mediated by its effects on executive function and theory of mind.

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