The Influence of Caregiver Distress and Child Anxiety in Predicting Child Somatization in Youth with Functional Abdominal Pain Disorders

Children (Basel). 2019 Dec 3;6(12):134. doi: 10.3390/children6120134.


Pediatric functional abdominal pain disorders (FAPD) are associated with adverse outcomes including increased somatization (e.g., heightened physiological sensations that include gastroenterological and non-gastroenterological symptoms) and increased functional disability. Caregiver distress and child anxiety are separately associated with the adverse outcomes of pediatric FAPD. However, the cumulative role of caregiver (i.e., stress, anxiety, and depression) and child psychological functioning (anxiety) in relation to adverse outcomes associated with FAPD, and particularly somatization, is unclear. Thus, the present investigation sought to examine the role of caregiver distress and child anxiety in relation to pain-related functioning (i.e., somatization, pain intensity, functional disability) in youth with FAPD. Data were gathered as part of a larger study examining a psychological treatment for youth with FAPD. Participants (ages 9-14) with FAPD completed measures of child anxiety, pain, and pain-related functioning. Caregivers completed a measure of caregiver distress (e.g., stress, anxiety, depressive symptoms). Pearson correlations revealed significant positive associations between child anxiety and child functional disability. Additionally, caregiver anxiety, child anxiety, and child somatization were all significantly and positively correlated with one another. Therefore, we assessed whether child anxiety may potentially mediate the relationship between caregiver anxiety and child somatization in this cross-sectional study. The indirect association between caregiver anxiety and child somatization via child anxiety was not significant. Future research including longitudinal designs to further understand the relationship between caregiver anxiety, child anxiety, and child pain-related functioning, would enhance understanding of how these potentially modifiable psychological factors may impact adverse outcomes of FAPD.

Keywords: anxiety; caregiver; functional abdominal pain; pediatric.