Improving life after brain injury Need to talk? 0808 800 2244

Home About brain injury Further information Research Impact on families and friendships

Emotional distress in ...

Emotional distress in children when a parent has had a severe brain injury Main Image

Emotional distress in children when a parent has had a severe brain injury

Mon 08 May 2017

New research has found that children show signs of emotional suffering when a parent has sustained a brain injury, which is often underestimated by the parent. The authors call for early interventions to be aimed at both children and parents to investigate the emotional and behavioural impact on children during the first period of adjustment. 


Primary objective: To investigate the type of emotional and behavioural impact that having a parent with a severe acquired brain injury (ABI) has on children during the first period of adjustment.

Methods and procedure: The study involved 25 couples in which one of the spouses was affected by ABI, and their 35 children (3–14 years). The children attended three sessions with a psychologist aimed at identifying their spontaneous playing and relational behaviour by means of a grid created on the basis of ICD-10 criteria. Both members of each parental couple attended a session with the psychologist, and were administered the Dyadic Adjustment Scale, the 36-item Health Survey and the Caregiver Burden Inventory.

Results: 63% of the children showed signs of emotional suffering, the presence of which was underestimated by their parents on the basis of the psychologist’s assessments. The variables that correlated most closely with the children’s psychological condition were related to the quality of their parents’ relationship.

Conclusions: Our findings confirm the need for early interventions aimed at both parents and their children in order to investigate the children’s emotional-affective situation, and favour an understanding of their discomfort by their parents.


Redolfi, A., Bartolini, G., Gugliotta, M., Maietti, A., Pietrapiana, P., Sapienza, S., D'Amato, A., & Mazzuchi, A. (2017). When a parent suffers ABI: Investigation of emotional distress in children. Brain Injury. 1-11. 


Headway's booklet Supporting children when a parent has had a brain injury offers information on how children of different ages are affected by a parent with a brain injury and offers suggestions of how to talk to and support the child. 


Share this page

Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

© Copyright Headway 2019  -  Site designed and developed by MEDIAmaker