Cognitive-behavioral treatment of recurrent nonspecific abdominal pain in children: an analysis of generalization, maintenance, and side effects

J Consult Clin Psychol. 1989 Apr;57(2):294-300. doi: 10.1037//0022-006x.57.2.294.


From 10% to 15% of school-aged children experience recurring abdominal pain. This study evaluated the efficacy of a cognitive-behavioral program for the treatment of nonspecific recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) using a controlled group design. The multicomponent treatment program consisted of differential reinforcement of well behavior, cognitive coping skills training, and various generalization enhancement procedures. Multiple measures of pain intensity and pain behavior were conducted, including children's self-monitoring, parent observation, teacher observation, and observation by independent observers. Results showed that both the experimental and the control groups reduced their levels of pain. However, the treated group improved more quickly, the effects generalized to the school setting, and a larger proportion of subjects were completely pain-free by 3-months follow-up (87.5% vs. 37.5%). There was no evidence for any negative side effects of treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen*
  • Behavior Therapy / methods*
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Generalization, Psychological*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Management*
  • Recurrence