Behavior problems in children at time of first recognized seizure and changes over the following 3 years

J. K. Austin, S. M. Perkins, C. S. Johnson, P. S. Fastenau, A. W. Byars, T. J. deGrauw, D. W. Dunn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Objectives: The purposes of this 36-month study of children with first recognized seizures were: (1) to describe baseline differences in behavior problems between children with and without prior unrecognized seizures; (2) to identify differences over time in behavior problems between children with seizures and their healthy siblings; (3) to identify the proportions of children with seizures and healthy siblings who were consistently at risk for behavior problems for 36. months; and (4) to identify risk factors for behavior problems 36. months following the first recognized seizure. Risk factors explored included demographic (child age and gender, caregiver education), neuropsychological (IQ, processing speed), seizure (epileptic syndrome, use of antiepileptic drug, seizure recurrence), and family (family mastery, satisfaction with family relationships, parent response) variables. Methods: Participants were 300 children aged 6 through 14. years with a first recognized seizure and 196 healthy siblings. Data were collected from medical records, structured interviews, self-report questionnaires, and neuropsychological testing. Behavior problems were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist and the Teacher's Report Form. Data analyses included descriptive statistics and linear mixed models. Results: Children with prior unrecognized seizures were at higher risk for behavior problems at baseline. As a group, children with seizures showed a steady reduction in behavior problems over time. Children with seizures were found to have significantly more behavior problems than their siblings over time, and significantly more children with seizures (11.3%) than siblings (4.6%) had consistent behavior problems over time. Key risk factors for child behavior problems based on both caregivers and teachers were: less caregiver education, slower initial processing speed, slowing of processing speed over the first 36. months, and a number of family variables including lower levels of family mastery or child satisfaction with family relationships, lower parent support of the child's autonomy, and lower parent confidence in their ability to discipline their child. Conclusions: Children with new-onset seizures who are otherwise developing normally have higher rates of behavior problems than their healthy siblings; however, behavior problems are not consistently in the at-risk range in most children during the first 3. years after seizure onset. When children show behavior problems, family variables that might be targeted include family mastery, parent support of child autonomy, and parents' confidence in their ability to handle their children's behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-381
Number of pages9
JournalEpilepsy and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2011


  • Behavior problems
  • Children
  • Family response
  • First seizures
  • Processing speed

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neurology

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