Recurrent abdominal pain and headache--psychopathology, life events and family functioning

Eur Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2002 Jun;11(3):115-22. doi: 10.1007/s00787-002-0276-0.


We assessed the psychopathology of children and adolescents with Recurrent Abdominal Pain (RAP) and tension-type headaches (TTH), the psychopathology and Expressed Emotion (EE) of their mothers and family functioning. Additionally, we assessed the relationship of negative Life Events (LE) to RAP and headaches. Sixty-nine children and adolescents with either RAP or headaches, and their mothers were examined and compared to controls. Of the children with RAP or headache, 81.6% and 83.9% respectively carried a psychiatric diagnosis, primarily anxiety or depressive disorder, in contrast to 15% of controls. Mothers of patients with RAP showed more symptoms of anger and hostility than controls. Index mothers had higher EE than control mothers. More problems were reported in the families of patients with RAP. Families of patients with headache were similar to those with RAP but differed from controls in terms of behaviour control and general functioning. More negative LE were experienced by both index groups. If psychological intervention is decided for certain children with RAP or TTH, it should address their depression, anxiety, the impact of negative LE and family functioning.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Anger
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Headache
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers
  • Psychopathology
  • Recurrence
  • Sick Role