Understanding the medically unexplained: emotional and familial influences on children's somatic functioning.Child Care Health Dev. 2009 May; 35(3):383-90.CC
Many youth experience impairing, unexplained somatic complaints. Psychosocial models of child somatization have primarily focused on parent somatic functioning. Although helpful in understanding child somatization, this narrow focus on parental factors leaves a large proportion of the variance unaccounted for when explaining children's general somatic functioning. The goal of this investigation is to extend current models of child somatization by collectively examining the influence of parent somatization and child emotional functioning.
Forty-two children (50% male; M age = 9.11) reported on their somatic symptoms, emotion awareness skills, and negative affect. Parents reported on their own somatic symptoms and their child's somatic symptoms and emotion regulation skills.
Regression analyses indicated that poor awareness of emotional experiences and frequency of negative effect predicted child-reported somatic symptoms. Parental somatic symptoms and parent reports of children's emotion regulation difficulties predicted mother-reported child somatic symptoms. Only parental somatic symptoms significantly predicted father-reported child somatic symptoms.
These results suggest that models of child somatization should consider both family - (e.g. parent somatization) and child-level (e.g. emotional functioning) variables. The discrepancies between parent and child report of youth somatic symptoms underscore the importance of including multiple reporters on symptomatology in research and clinical settings. Suggestions for future research are provided.