The current cross-sectional study examined child and adolescent pain severity in relation to various domains of school functioning and, in line with self-determination theory, the potentially protective role of perceived teacher support of child/adolescent autonomy and competence. Data from a large representative sample of Flemish school children and adolescents (N=10650; 50.8% boys; age range 10-21years; mean age=14.33) was collected as part of the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborative Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) survey. Child/adolescent pain severity was graded based on a pediatric pain classification system adapted from that of Von Korff et al. The current study thus provided insight regarding the prevalence of pain among Flemish children/adolescents and, extending the limitations of existing literature, examined the specific role of pain severity across various domains of school functioning. Findings indicated that a sizeable proportion of children reported moderate to severe pain problems (ie, about 14% of children and adolescents were classified in the highest pain grades: ie, grade III or IV). Furthermore, higher pain grades were associated with poorer outcomes across all indices of school functioning (ie, school absenteeism, school-related pressure and satisfaction, and bullying experiences), with the exception of academic performance. However, the association between pain grade and school absenteeism was less pronounced when children perceived their teachers to be highly supportive of competence and autonomy. Furthermore, teacher support of competence appeared to buffer against the harmful effects of severe pain upon instances of bullying experiences at school. Future research directions and implications for school-based interventions are discussed.
Keywords: Children; Pain severity; Prevalence; School functioning; Self-determination theory; Support; Teacher.
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