The mediating role of parent expectations on the relationship between depressive symptoms and postsecondary outcomes for youth with traumatic brain injury
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Annually, around 500,000 youth between the ages of 0-14 years sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a type of head injury that disrupts typical brain functioning. While several neuropsychological effects have been well-documented in the literature, the incidence of depression is elevated in youth with TBI compared to youth without head injuries. The confluence of these neuropsychological and emotional outcomes affect several domains of functioning (e.g., academic, cognitive, familial). That is, not only does TBI affect the individual directly, but it oftentimes affects family members, such that parents struggle to adjust their expectations of their child following a TBI. Taken together, the pursuit of postsecondary education, employment, or autonomy may be compromised for youth with TBI and depression. Yet, high parental expectations are generally regarded as a protective factor for youth with disabilities and in the general population. However, these variables have not been examined amongst youth with TBI. Drawing from data from the National Longitudinal Transition Survey 2 (NLTS-2) and controlling for demographic variables, the purpose of the current study is to examine the mediating role of parent expectations on the relationship between depressive symptoms and postsecondary outcomes (e.g., academic, life, and employment) for youth with TBI. Results from this study indicated that parent expectations significantly mediated the relationship between depressive symptoms and whether a youth lived independently, a variable that is important for many positive aspects of a youth’s well-being and autonomy. In addition, depressive symptoms significantly predicted whether a youth lived independently, as well as their self-beliefs. It is the hope that this study helps parents, clinicians, and teachers understand how to best support youth with TBI as they navigate the complex milieu of postsecondary education, employment, and living.