Epilepsy Information

American Epilepsy Society Poster 1.291

Social difficulties among children with epilepsy

Authors: R. Trobliger, E. Segal, M. E. Lancman, M. Lancman

A byproduct of research on the correlation between parents' and children's perceptions of mood, behavior, and cognitive functioning was the finding that social difficulties rated among the top three areas of concern, for patients with epilepsy. There has been a large thrust in the mainstream media on the impact of bullying on children, with the development of school programs designed for zero tolerance of such. Studies have demonstrated the impact of bullying on children's level of self-esteem as well as its contribution to depression and even suicidality. Children with epilepsy are at particular risk of bullying, given the physical manifestations of seizures as well as the potential impact on cognitive and motor development. However, some studies have also suggested that over time, the general population has become more knowledgeable about epilepsy and seizures in general. This in turn raises the possibility that children have become more knowledgeable and more tolerant of their peers with epilepsy. This study examined perceived and observed levels of social difficulties, to determine if such remained among the highest areas of concern. While not directly assessed, this would raise the possibility of decreased bullying among those with epilepsy and certainly suggest improvements in social interaction among these children. 


Parental observations of levels of concerns regarding mood, anxiety, behaviors, cognitive difficulties, and physical complaints were assessed using the Achenbach Children's Behavior Checklist. Children's observations of their own concerns regarding the same were assessed with the Achenbach Youth Self-Report measure. 

The three highest of 14 indices on the CBCL were indices of ADHD symptomology and behavioral issues. Social difficulties were ranked the 6th highest on the list. The three highest of 14 indices on the YSR were indices of ADHD symptomology, behavioral issues, and mood lability. In fact, it should be noted that social difficulties was one of the lowest three indices among youth self-report scales, along with certain behavioral issues and physical complaints.

These findings are encouraging, as they demonstrate that social difficulties were not among the top three highest rated concerns among parents. Among children, social difficulties were one of the lowest endorsed indices. This suggests that social difficulties may not be as prominent as in the past among children with a history of seizures. It is unclear if this is a byproduct of increased access to therapy services, more effective education of the general population (including children), greater resilience among those with seizures (given ongoing changes and improvements in medical treatments), or some combination of these and other findings. Still, these results are promising regarding the possibility of increased social acceptance of those with epilepsy.