Psychosocial, behavioral, and medical outcomes in children with epilepsy: a developmental risk factor model using longitudinal data

Author(s): Mitchell WG, Scheier LM, Baker SA


Objective:We studied factors predicting the risk of adverse long-term psychosocial, behavioral, and medical outcomes in children with epilepsy.

Methods:Children (N = 157, 4.5 to 13 years) were enrolled in a prospective longitudinal study when first seen. Potential subjects were excluded if they were moderately or severely mentally retarded, had motor or sensory handicaps interfering with testing, or did not speak either English or Spanish.

Measures:To develop risk predictors, we collected information regarding the child's medical and seizure history, cognitive functioning, and behavior problems, and family functioning. Children and their families were followed for a minimum of 18 months, then underwent reassessment of medical status, parent's attitudes toward epilepsy, and the child's behavioral and cognitive functioning. Data were analyzed by confirmatory factor analysis to develop baseline factors (Sociocultural Risk, Seizure Risk, and Behavior Problems) and outcome factors (Medical/Seizure Problems, Parent's Negative Attitudes Toward Epilepsy, and Behavior Problems), followed by structural equation modeling to determine across-time causal effects. Eighty-eight subjects completed all baseline and outcome measures.

Results:Among significant across-time effects, Medical Outcome was predicted by Seizure Risk. An increased number of stressful life events predicted better Medical Outcome. Low acculturation increased Parent's Negative Attitudes and was associated with increased Behavior Problems at baseline. Behavior Problems were stable across time. It is interesting that IQ did not affect any of the outcomes, although its effect may have been mediated through other baseline measures.

Conclusions:Seizure history was the best predictor of ongoing medical difficulties, whereas the most important causes of ongoing parental anxiety and negative attitudes toward epilepsy were sociocultural. Variation in medical or attitudinal outcomes was not influenced by either the child's IQ or reported behavioral problems. These findings suggest that to alter attitudes toward epilepsy, programs should be tailored to the sociocultural background of the family. Studies of quality of life of children with epilepsy should include appropriate sociocultural measures.

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