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Executive summary

The impact of an adult child with severe traumatic brain injury on family functioning and the psychological wellbeing of the parents.

Dr Malcolm Anderson (Senior Lecturer & Research Development Co-ordinator), Dr G Simpson (Research Team Leader, Brain Injury Unit, Liverpool), Prof Magdalena Mok (Educational Psychology), Mrs Tamara Gosling (Lecturer)

This study was a pioneer investigation on the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on parents as intact couples with adult children with TBI. We found that cognitive and behavioural impairments did not significantly disrupt family functioning or influence psychological distress experienced by parents, which suggests other factors may be influencing family dynamics following TBI. The couples had a similar perspective on the distress they were experiencing, which is different to previous research. A plausible explanation for this finding is the couples we interviewed largely shared the responsibility of caring for their child, which exposes both parents to the challenges of every day living and support required by the child with TBI. During this study it emerged that there appears to be a significant difference in the impact of neurobehavioural factors on psychological distress for spouse/caregivers when compared with parent caregivers, which has not been explored previously. The findings and recommendations from one of our recent publications related to this study have been adopted by trainers at the NSW Brain Injury Association to assist families cope with the changes in family dynamics following TBI. In the future, we plan to extend this study into Hong Kong.