Profiling Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms in Children Undergoing Treatment for Spondyloarthritis and Polyarthritis

J Rheumatol. 2022 May;49(5):489-496. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.210489. Epub 2022 Feb 1.


Objective: Few studies examine psychopathology in different juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) subtypes and disease activity states. We aimed to (1) evaluate emotional and behavioral symptoms in children with juvenile spondyloarthritis (SpA) and polyarticular arthritis (PolyA) as compared to a national normative population using the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), and (2) evaluate the relationship between CBCL scores and disease activity.

Methods: Patients with JIA aged 6-17 years with SpA or PolyA were recruited from our pediatric rheumatology clinic from April 2018 to April 2019 and the CBCL and clinical Juvenile Arthritis Disease Activity Score in 10 joints (cJADAS10) were completed. Primary outcome measures were CBCL total competence, internalizing, externalizing, and total problems raw scores. We compared outcomes from each group to national CBCL normative data. To investigate the relationship between CBCL scores and disease activity, we ran a generalized linear regression model for all patients with arthritis with cJADAS10 as the main predictor.

Results: There were 111 patients and 1753 healthy controls (HCs). Compared to HCs, patients with SpA or PolyA had worse total competence and internalizing scores. Higher cJADAS10 scores were associated with worse total competence, worse internalizing, and higher total problems scores. Most of these differences reached statistical significance (P < 0.01). Self-harm/suicidality was almost 4-fold higher in patients with PolyA than HCs (OR 3.6, 95% CI 1.3-9.6, P = 0.011).

Conclusion: Our study shows that patients with SpA and PolyA with more active disease have worse psychological functioning in activities, school, and social arenas, and more internalized emotional disturbances, suggesting the need for regular mental health screening by rheumatologists.

Keywords: behavior; pediatric rheumatology; polyarthritis; psychologic; spondyloarthritis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms
  • Arthritis, Juvenile* / complications
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Child Behavior Disorders* / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Spondylarthritis*