Social, Emotional, and Academic Functioning of Youth with Congenital Heart Disease

Doctor's Name: 
Kathryn Vannatta
Nationwide Children's Hospital

Collaboratively awarded through the CHF and AHA Congenital Heart Defect Research Awards

(Total Grant Amount $154,000; CHF portion = $47,567.52)

Increasing numbers of children now survive serious congenital heart defects (CHD), but there is a lot we don't know about the broader development of survivors. Deficits occur in attention and cognitive abilities and there may also be impairment in skills required for social communication and interaction. Research is needed that tests whether these skills, as well as other differences in physical activity and resources in school and family environments, account for differences in social behavior and adjustment in CHD survivors. Peer relationships are a critical part of childhood and have implications for current quality of life and the course of later development. 

We will identify details about the social difficulties experienced by children with severe forms of CHD, including levels of social withdrawal, disruptive behavior, and whether survivors are victimized by peers. We will examine whether CHD survivors have more of those interactions or have fewer friends than healthy classmates. We will test whether these difficulties are explained by cognitive and social-affective abilities or less engagement in physical activity and extracurricular activities. We will test the benefits of different parenting practices and types of school environments in promoting social competence. We plan to use this information to inform a larger study examining how CHD survivors make the transition from elementary to middle school.

The proposed study aligns well with the AHA mission to "build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular disease an stroke". Congenital heart defects affect 40,000 newborns each year in the United States and improvements in survival create new challenges to understand the needs of survivors over the course of their lives. The proposed research will inform what work needs to be done to achieve empirically based resources and intervention to foster healthy development and quality of life. In keeping with policy statements from the AHA, our focus is on understanding and improving outcomes beyond survival that matter to patients and their families.

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