Author(s): Austin JK, Huster GA, Rose DF, Harezlak J, Dunn DW
OBJECTIVE: It is not known when behavior problems begin in children with epilepsy. The purposes of this study were to: 1) describe the rates of behavior problems in children before their first recognized seizure, 2) determine the differences in behavior problems between children with a first recognized seizure and their healthy siblings, and 3) identify the seizure variables early in the course of the condition that are associated with behavior problems before the first recognized seizure. METHODS: The sample was 224 children (4-14 years old) with a first recognized seizure and their 135 healthy siblings. As part of a larger study, computer-assisted structured telephone interviews were conducted with mothers to measure child and sibling behavior problems. Behavior problems were measured using the Child Behavior Checklist. Frequencies, t tests, correlational analysis, and multiple regression were used to analyze data. RESULTS: Higher than expected rates of behavior problems in the 6 months before the first recognized seizure were found in the total seizure sample, with 32.1% being in the clinical or at-risk range. Rates were highest in children who had previous events that were probably seizures, with 39.5% in the clinical or at-risk range. Children with seizures had significantly higher Total, Internalizing, Attention, Thought, and Somatic Complaints problem scores than their nearest-in-age healthy siblings. Within the seizure sample, variables significantly associated with behavior problems after adjusting for research site, child sex, child age, and socioeconomic status (as represented by primary caregiver's education) were interactions of previously unrecognized seizures with gender and epilepsy syndrome/type of seizures. CONCLUSIONS: Children with previously unrecognized seizures are already at increased risk for behavior problems at the time of their first recognized seizure. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that in some children, epilepsy is a pervasive condition that includes both seizures and behavioral problems.