Purpose: The goal of this study was to determine whether adolescent offspring of mothers with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) have higher prevalence of CFS and report more fatigue, greater pain sensitivity, more sleep problems, and poorer cardiopulmonary fitness in comparison with offspring with no exposure to maternal CFS.
Methods: A total of 26 adolescent offspring of 20 mothers diagnosed with CFS were compared with 45 adolescent offspring of 30 age-matched healthy control mothers. Study measures included structured interviews and medical and laboratory examinations for CFS; tender point examination; maximum oxygen uptake and perceived exertion; dolorimetry pain ratings; and questionnaires on fatigue severity and sleepiness.
Results: In comparison with offspring of healthy mothers, those exposed to mothers with CFS reported higher prevalence of fatigue of at least 1-month duration (23% vs. 4%), fatigue of 6 months or longer (15% vs. 2%), and met criteria for CFS (12% vs. 2%), although these differences only approached statistical significance. CFS and healthy mothers differed on almost all study outcomes, but offspring groups did not differ on measures of current fatigue severity, pain sensitivity, sleep, mean number of tender points, and cardiopulmonary fitness.
Conclusions: The higher prevalence of fatiguing states in offspring of CFS mothers, despite the lack of statistical significance, suggests that familial factors may potentially play a role in developing chronically fatiguing states. Alternately, perturbations in pain sensitivity and cardiopulmonary fitness may be consequences of CFS. Future studies should focus on examining the impact of maternal CFS and associated disability on psychosocial functioning of offspring.