Systematic review of family functioning in families of children and adolescents with chronic pain

J Pain. 2010 Nov;11(11):1027-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2010.04.005.


Disturbances in family functioning have been identified in youth with chronic pain and are associated with worse child physical and psychological functioning. Assessment measures of family functioning used in research and clinical settings vary. This systematic review summarizes studies investigating relationships among family functioning, pain, and pain-related disability in youth with chronic pain. Sixteen articles were reviewed. All studies were cross-sectional; 7 utilized between-group comparisons (chronic pain versus healthy/control) and 12 examined within-group associations among family functioning, pain, and/or pain-related disability. Studies represented youth with various pain conditions (eg, headache, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia) ages 6 to 20 years. Findings revealed group differences in family functioning between children with chronic pain and healthy control subjects in 5 of 7 studies. Significant associations emerged among family variables and pain-related disability in 6 of 9 studies with worse family functioning associated with greater child disability; relationships between family functioning and children's pain were less consistent. Different patterns of results emerged depending on family functioning measure used. Overall, findings showed that families of children with chronic pain generally have poorer family functioning than healthy populations and that pain-related disability is more consistently related to family functioning than pain intensity.

Perspective: This review highlights the importance of family factors in pain-related disability in youth with chronic pain. Results suggest that family-level variables may be an important target for intervention. Family functioning measures showed significant variation, and researchers should take this into account when selecting instruments for use in research and clinical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disabled Children / psychology*
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Young Adult