The application of a family systems model to the understanding of pediatric non-epileptic seizures

Laura Mary Bonder, Fordham University


Although children with non-epileptic seizures (NES) comprise approximately twenty percent of the patients seen at comprehensive epilepsy centers, very little systematic research has been conducted with this population. Preliminary studies have pointed to the presence of anxiety and unspecified family difficulties in the lives of these children. Extracting from family system's theories, the present study hypothesized that several aspects of family functioning, including communication, level of affective responsiveness, level of triangulation, and overall functioning, would interact with individual characteristics of the child, including level of anxiety and somatic complaints, in the lives of children with NES. The present study aimed to systematically investigate these variables in a sample of children and adolescents with NES, in addition to a control group of children and adolescents with documented epilepsy, who were recruited from the NYU-Mt. Sinai Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. In order to assess the previously mentioned variables, all of the participants were asked to complete either the Youth Self Report and the Family Assessment Device or an interview designed for the current study. Additionally, one of each participant's parents was asked to complete the Child Behavior Checklist, the Family Assessment Device, and the Nuclear Family Triangulation Scale. Over the course of two years, forty-seven participants were recruited. The results of the study revealed no significant differences between the two groups on any of the family or individual measures, and generally low effect sizes for each of the study comparisons. Although children in both groups were reported to have clinical levels of anxiety and somatic complaints, the results of the family measures were all within the normal range. The results suggest that the current measures cannot be used to reliably differentiate between children and adolescents with epilepsy and those with NES, though it is likely that factors related to the setting of the present study contributed to the observed findings. Additional research is warranted to further explicate the specific nature of the family dysfunction experienced by children with NES and to investigate the way in which family dynamics interact with the specific characteristics of the child.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Bonder, Laura Mary, "The application of a family systems model to the understanding of pediatric non-epileptic seizures" (2004). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3140895.