The behaviour of children with epilepsy could help identify those at a greater risk of severe psychiatric conditions, according to a study published in the journal, Epilepsia.This finding is important, because it means that children who are identified in this way can be given the necessary care and treatment so that chronic mental health problems (which may negatively influence quality of life and increase the risk of suicide) are not carried into adulthood.During the study, researchers led by Dr Rochelle Caplan, at the University of California, recruited 328 children with epilepsy and divided them into two groups: a ‘younger’ group (aged 5-12) and an ‘older’ group (aged 13-18). They then asked the parents of the children to complete the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) questionnaire, which includes 113 items to assess children’s behaviour.The team also conducted psychiatric interviews with the children and their parents, to try and identify or diagnose some of the children with a psychiatric disorder (e.g. depression, anxiety and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)).The results showed that seven characteristics on the CBCL – clinginess, cruelty/bullying, perfectionism, nervousness, poor schoolwork, inattentiveness and sulkiness – were helpful in identifying/diagnosing children in the younger group with multiple psychiatric conditions, but not those with a single psychiatric condition.Similarly, amongst the older group of children, three traits on the CBCL – disobedience at school, loner behaviour and lying/cheating – were found to be useful in identifying/diagnosing those with multiple psychiatric conditions (but again, not those with a single condition).The authors conclude that CBCL is a simple and accurate screening tool, which could easily be used to identify children with epilepsy who are at an increased risk of multiple psychiatric conditions and need to be referred to a psychiatrist.People with epilepsy have a higher risk of suicide compared with the general population, and the risk significantly increases if one or more psychiatric conditions are also present.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more news articles about epilepsy in children.