Inflammatory bowel disease in children and adolescents: mental health and family functioning

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Apr;28(4):S28-33. doi: 10.1097/00005176-199904001-00004.


Background: Inflammatory bowel disease in children and adolescents often leads to an extremely complex somatic and psychiatric situation. The psychological effect of inflammatory bowel disease warrants further investigation, especially concerning salutogenetic factors that may lead to good mental health despite bad somatic conditions.

Methods: These studies used a multimethod design comprising both semiquantitative measures, such as rating scales and questionnaires, and qualitative in-depth interviews with both the child and his or her parents. Clinical comparison groups of matched children with diabetes and chronic tension headaches and matched children without chronic physical disease were examined.

Results: Inflammatory bowel disease often leads to psychiatric sequelae. Emotional disorders, especially depression and anxiety symptoms, were found to be common. Self-esteem was lowered. A subgroup of children with good mental health despite bad somatic conditions was found. They exhibited certain characteristics, including good knowledge of the disease, an internal locus of control, a good family climate, and an open social network.

Conclusions: This study shows that the well-being of a chronically ill child depends not only on the course of the physical disease but also on the psychological and social complications that often seem to accompany a disease of this kind. The importance of taking good care of the psychosocial aspects of inflammatory bowel disease within the comprehensive treatment program is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Emotions
  • Family Relations*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / psychology*
  • Mental Health*