Physical and emotional health of mothers of youth with functional abdominal pain

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Feb;161(2):131-7. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.161.2.131.


Objective: To determine if mothers of youth with functional abdominal pain (FAP) experience more anxiety, depressive, and somatic symptoms and disorders than mothers of unaffected children.

Design: Case-control study.

Setting: Four primary care pediatric practices in western Pennsylvania.

Participants: Mothers of 8- to 15-year-old children and adolescents presenting with FAP (59 cases) or for routine care in the absence of recurrent pain (76 controls).

Outcome measures: Questionnaires and blinded interviews assessing anxiety, depressive, and somatic symptoms and disorders; quality of life; and service use.

Results: On univariate analyses, mothers of FAP cases were significantly more likely than mothers of controls to have a lifetime history of irritable bowel syndrome (odds ratio [OR], 3.9; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5-10.3), migraine (OR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.1-5.3), and anxiety (OR, 4.8; 95% CI, 2.2-10.6), depressive (OR, 4.9; 95% CI, 2.2-11.0), and somatoform (OR, 16.1; 95% CI, 2.0-129.8) disorders than mothers of controls, and current anxiety, depressive, and somatic symptoms, poorer overall quality of life, and greater use of ambulatory health, but not mental health, services. Multivariate logistic regression found pediatric FAP to be most closely associated with maternal history of anxiety and depression (adjusted OR, 6.1; 95% CI, 1.8-20.8).

Conclusions: Functional abdominal pain may be better conceptualized as a disorder of emotion than a narrowly defined disorder of gastrointestinal function. Low rates of mental health service use by mothers of youth with FAP suggest that family health and illness attitudes deserve study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology
  • Abdominal Pain / psychology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data
  • Comorbidity
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Odds Ratio
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires