Parental worries and beliefs about abdominal pain

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2009 Mar;48(3):311-7. doi: 10.1097/mpg.0b013e31817c03ae.


Background: Solicitous parental responses to stomachaches may perpetuate chronic abdominal pain in children. Discussing these issues in clinical practice is difficult because parents feel misunderstood and blamed for their child's pain. Focusing on parental worries and beliefs that motivate solicitous responses may be better accepted.

Objectives: Our aim was to determine parental fears, worries, and beliefs about their child's chronic abdominal pain that influence parental responses to child's pain.

Materials and methods: In 2 studies, a large online sample and a smaller community sample consisting of parents with children who have abdominal pain, we developed and evaluated a self-report questionnaire to assess parental Worries and Beliefs about Abdominal Pain (WAP).

Results: Principal component analysis identified 4 subscales: "pain is real," "desire for care," "worry about coping," and "exacerbating factors." The WAP is easily understood and possesses adequate initial reliability (Cronbach alpha=0.7-0.9). It shows good initial validity (ie, families who consulted a physician for their child's pain scored higher on the WAP than families who did not consult a physician and the WAP correlates with parental reactions to the child's pain).

Conclusions: Discussing parents' fears and worries about their children's chronic abdominal pain may facilitate discussions of social learning of gastrointestinal illness behavior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / psychology*
  • Abdominal Pain / therapy
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Illness Behavior*
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*