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If they are not in pain, 8-12 year-old children with cerebral palsy seem to feel just as happy as healthy children of the same age, say researchers in a new study. Pain is the main factor affecting happiness, said the researchers, rather than the severity or type of cerebral palsy.

You can read about this study in the journal The Lancet, 30th June issue.

The researchers found that 54% of children with cerebral palsy did experience some degree of pain. They also mentioned that children whose cerebral palsy did not allow them to self-report were not included in the study. However, they stressed that these findings offer both reassurance to parents of children with this disorder and potential strategies to clinicians seeking to improve the quality of life for affected children.

Two, much smaller, previous studies had indicated the opposite. This latest study involved 818 children throughout Western Europe - Denmark, England, France, Ireland, Italy, Northern Ireland and Sweden. 500 of the children, those who could self-report, and their parents, were visited at home and were given KIDSCREEN questionnaires. The reports were compared to 3,200 reports from children who did not have cerebral palsy.

The findings found that children with cerebral palsy:

scored lower for…
… physical well-being
… self-sufficiency
… social support

Scored higher for…
…school environment

Severity of cerebral palsy did not significantly affect their happiness or how they perceived themselves

Those who could not speak, or found it difficult, did not enjoy such a good relationship with their parents compared to those who could speak.

What is Cerebral Palsy?

A number of neurological disorders that become evident during infancy or early childhood, they permanently affect body movement and muscle coordination, but do not get worse over time. Most children are born with cerebral palsy, although detection can happen months and years after birth. A tiny number of children have cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage very early in life, due to infection, head injury or child abuse. The first signs usually appear before the child is three years' old. There are abnormalities in parts of the brain that control muscle movements (not caused by muscle or nerve problems).

The most common signs of Cerebral Palsy are:

-- Poor muscle coordination when performing voluntary movements - ataxia
-- Stiff/tight muscles
-- Exaggerated reflexes - spasticity
-- Walking on toes
-- Walking with one foot/leg dragging
-- Crouched or scissored gait (posture)
-- Muscle tone that is either too stiff or too floppy

Most children with cerebral palsy can expect to have a normal life-span.

"Self-reported quality of life of 8 - 12-year-old children with cerebral palsy: a cross-sectional European study"
Dickinson HO, Parkinson KN, Ravens-Sieberer U, Schirripa G, Thyen U, Arnaud C, Beckung E, Fauconnier J, McManus V, Michelsen SI, Parkes J, Colver AF
The Lancet - Vol. 369, Issue 9580, 30 June 2007, Pages 2171-2178
-- Summary
-- Full Text

Also:

"Happiness reconsidered in children with cerebral palsy"
Dammann O, O'Shea TM
The Lancet - Vol. 369, Issue 9580, 30 June 2007, Pages 2137-2138
-- Full Text

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today

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