Military and Veterans Affairs
Higher childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with higher intelligence scores as well as better cognitive recovery following pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI). Less is known about the effects of childhood SES on long-term cognitive outcome following TBI acquired in adulthood. We examined the association between childhood SES and general intelligence throughout adulthood in a sample of 240 Vietnam veterans from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. 186 of the study participants sustained a penetrating brain injury (pTBI) in their 20s, providing the largest study testing childhood SES effects on recovery of cognitive function following non-pediatric TBI. General intelligence was measured pre injury (upon enlistment in the military), and then again 15, 35, and 42 years post injury. For both participants with and without pTBI, childhood SES was a significant predictor of intelligence scores 42 years post-injury, however it was not associated with the rate of cognitive change. Moreover, childhood SES predicted cognitive outcome among patients with left hemisphere damage better than it did for right hemisphere damage patients. These findings provide the first evidence indicating the persistent effects of childhood SES on cognitive functioning later in adulthood following a TBI. Childhood SES should be considered when predicting and assessing cognitive recovery following TBI, even when the injury occurred in adulthood.