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A preliminary investigation of moral reasoning and empathy after traumatic brain injury in adolescents

M. H. Beauchamp, J. J. Dooley, V. Anderson,

Academic Literature


PRIMARY OBJECTIVE: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained during childhood can affect a number of socio-cognitive skills; however, little attention has focused on the integrity of moral reasoning in the assessment of post-TBI social sequelae and the role of empathy and intelligence on moral maturity.;RESEARCH DESIGN: In a quasi-experimental, cross-sectional research design, moral reasoning maturity and empathy in adolescents with mild-to-severe TBI (n=25) were compared to typically-developing peers (n=66).;METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Participants were administered the So-Moral and So-Mature, tasks of socio-moral reasoning and maturity, the Index of Empathy for Children and Adolescents, the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence and a demographic questionnaire.;MAIN OUTCOMES AND RESULTS: Participants with TBI had significantly lower levels of moral reasoning maturity. Further, adolescents with moderate-to-severe TBI had lower levels of empathy. Empathy correlated positively with moral reasoning abilities and, together with intellectual function, predicted a small, but significant proportion of moral reasoning outcome.;CONCLUSIONS: Youth who sustained TBI during childhood have poorer moral reasoning abilities than their non-injured peers, potentially placing them at risk for poor social decision-making and socially maladaptive behaviour. This can have a significant impact on long-term social functioning.

Publication information

Journal/Publication : Brain Injury

Domain/s: Social relationships

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