Physically unexplained chronic pain and its impact on children and their families: the mother's perception

Joke A M Hunfeld, Christel W Perquin, Alice A J M Hazebroek-Kampschreur, Jan Passchier, Lisette W A van Suijlekom-Smit, Johannes C van der Wouden

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Because children with physically unexplained chronic pain may become the adult chronic pain patients of the future and because little is known about this pain and its impact on children and their families, a sample of 77 children (aged 5-11 years) with this type of pain was investigated. The hypothesis was tested that a greater intensity and frequency of pain would diminish the child's functional status and increase the impact of pain on the family. All mothers completed questionnaires on their perception of the child's functional status and the impact of pain on the family, and kept a diary on the child's pain for three successive weeks, three times daily, by means of a visual analogue scale (VAS) and a behavioural list. The study was conducted in the general population in the Rotterdam area. Children with physically unexplained chronic pain were sampled from those participating in a prevalence study on chronic pain. The average pain was mild (30 mm on a 0-100 mm VAS), moderately frequent (34% of the diary registration time), increased during the day, and did not result in large school absence or problems with functional status. Pain showed a relatively negative impact on family life, especially restrictions in social life and personal strain were reported, based on behavioural changes. In particular, abdominal pain, headache and limb pain are already present in considerable numbers at a young age. Longitudinal research should determine whether shifts occur in pain experience and locations from childhood and adulthood and in different dimensions of functional status and, more broadly, in quality of life resulting from pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-60
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology and psychotherapy
Issue numberPt 3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal Pain/epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes/epidemiology
  • Cost of Illness
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Headache/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mothers/psychology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Somatoform Disorders/epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

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