Adolescent chronic pain: patterns and predictors of emotional distress in adolescents with chronic pain and their parents

Pain. 2004 Apr;108(3):221-229. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2003.11.008.


Adolescents with chronic pain also report severe disability and emotional distress. A clinical sample of 80 adolescents and accompanying parents were investigated to first measure the extent of distress, and second to investigate the relationships between adolescent distress, parental distress and adolescent coping. Measures of pain intensity, anxiety, depression, disability and coping were obtained from adolescents. Parents completed measures including their own anxiety, depression and parenting stress. Overall, adolescents reported high levels of disability, depression and anxiety, and parents reported high levels of depression, anxiety and parenting stress. Multiple regression analyses revealed that the best predictors of adolescent emotional distress were the extent to which the adolescents catastrophize and seek social support to cope with the pain. There were no clear predictors of parental anxiety or depression but the specific pattern of parenting stress was best predicted by the younger age of the adolescent, the greater the chronicity of the problem, and the greater the extent of adolescent depression. These findings suggest that emotional coping is a critical variable in the distress associated with adolescent chronic pain. It is argued that adolescent emotional coping may best be understood within a relational context of seeking emotional support.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease / psychology*
  • Depression / etiology*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents
  • Personality Assessment
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis