Objective: To examine reports of pain, disability, and somatic and psychological symptoms among siblings of children with functional abdominal pain (FAP) and siblings of "healthy" comparison children.
Methods: This survey study explored two groups of participants (FAP and healthy) consisting of (1) children with FAP and their siblings and parents and (2) healthy comparison children and their siblings, and parents. Participants included 13 FAP families and 10 healthy comparison families. Siblings and children were between 8 and 14 years of age. Measures included the Behavioral Assessment System for Children, Abdominal Pain Index, Children's Somatization Inventory, Functional Disability Inventory, and Family Inventory of Life Events. Cross-sectional data were analyzed using correlations and analysis of variance techniques.
Results: Siblings of children with FAP reported significantly greater mean levels of emotional/ behavioral symptoms than siblings of healthy comparison children. No significant between-group differences were identified in FAP and healthy comparison parents' reports of siblings' pain or emotional/behavioral symptoms. There were significantly more persons with pain problems living in the homes of FAP families. Among FAP families, a greater number of parent-reported family stressful life events was significantly associated with sibling functional disability and somatic symptoms.
Conclusion: This investigation suggests that siblings of children with FAP experience more emotional/behavioral symptoms than peers and that their symptoms are not readily identified by parents. These findings highlight the importance of considering the psychological functioning of "unaffected" siblings and family stressors when children present with recurrent pain complaints.