Substance use, criminal behaviour and psychiatric symptoms following childhood traumatic brain injury: findings from the ALSPAC cohort

Eleanor Kennedy, Jon Heron, Marcus Munafo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
563 Downloads (Pure)


Recent research suggests a link between traumatic brain injury (TBI) in youth and later risk behaviour. We explored the association between mild TBI and psychiatric symptoms, substance use and criminal behaviour using data from a longitudinal birth cohort. Participants with mild TBI (n = 800), orthopaedic injuries (n = 2,305) and no injuries (n = 8,307) were identified from self and parent reports up to age 16 years. Self-report measures of substance use (alcohol, tobacco and cannabis) and criminal behaviours, and parent-reported psychiatric symptoms were collected at age 17 years. Analyses were adjusted for pre-birth and early childhood confounders. Participants with a TBI showed increased odds of hazardous alcohol use compared to those with no injury and those with an orthopaedic injury. Relative to those with no injury, participants with a TBI showed increased odds of problematic use of tobacco and cannabis, being in trouble with the police and having more parent-reported conduct problems. Sustaining either a TBI or an orthopaedic injury increased the odds of offending behaviour compared to having no injuries. There was no clear evidence of association between orthopaedic injury and the other risk outcomes.
The increased odds of risk behaviour associated with TBI relative to no injury replicated previous research. However, the inclusion of a non-brain-related injury group adds evidence for a possible causal pathway between mild TBI in youth and later hazardous alcohol use only. This highlights the importance of including an additional negative control injury group in mild TBI research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1197-1206
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number10
Early online date17 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Submission accepted 04/03/2017

Structured keywords

  • Brain and Behaviour
  • Tobacco and Alcohol


  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Head injury
  • Risk behaviour
  • crime
  • Substance Use

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