Psychosocial adjustment and craniofacial malformations in childhood.

Michael Pertschuk
L A Whitaker


Forty-three children between the ages of 6 and 13 years with congenital facial anomalies underwent psychosocial evaluation prior to surgery. Also evaluated were healthy children matched to the craniofacial subjects by sex, age, intelligence, and economic background. Relative to this comparison group, the craniofacial children were found to have poorer self-concept, greater anxiety at the time of evaluation, and more introversion. Parents of the craniofacial children noted more frequent negative social encounters for their children and more hyperactive behavior at home. Teachers reported more problematic classroom behavior. Examination of these results revealed craniofacial malformations to be associated with psychosocial limitations rather than marked deficits. These children tended to function less well than the comparison children, but with few exceptions, they were not functioning in a psychosocially deviant range. Explanations for the observed circumscribed impact of facial deformity include the use of denial as a coping mechanism, possible diminished significance of appearance for younger children, and the restricted environment experienced by most of the subjects. It can be predicted that time would render these protective influences ineffective, so that adolescent and young adult patients could be at far greater psychosocial risk.