Mothers' Minds and Kiddies' "Tummies"

Published Online: Thursday, May 1, 2003

Taking children to the pediatrician?s office for stomachaches and abdominal pain is more prevalent among depressed or anxious mothers, a new study has found. Researchers found that mothers with the highest levels of depression were 2 times as likely to seek medical help for abdominal pain reported by their children, compared with mothers with lower levels of depression.

Using data collected from a larger study that examined how pain and coping mechanisms are transferred from mothers to children, investigators focused on 326 children who had suffered a stomachache or abdominal pain 2 weeks prior to the survey, according to the mothers? responses.They examined a large HMO?s records to determine which mothers had brought the children to a pediatrician for similar complaints in the previous 3 months. The information was then compared with the mothers? psychological states.

Rona L. Levy, PhD, of the University of Washington School of Social Work, presented the findings at a conference of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in March 2003. She said that it is important for pediatricians and parents to realize that a mother?s mental state may influence the decision to seek medical treatment.

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