Somatic Complaints in the Preschool to School-Age Period: Associations with Maternal and Child Psychopathology Open Access

Engel, Melissa Lauren (2017)

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Childhood somatic complaints have been associated with concurrent and future internalizing symptoms and disorders, as well as with maternal psychopathology. Prior research has examined these relationships in older children and adolescents, but the persistence across early development, behavioral correlates, and gender differences of somatic complaints in younger children have not been examined longitudinally. The current study explores these associations in children considered high-risk due to the majority of their mothers having a history of psychopathology. A sample of 185 mother-child dyads participated in a lab visit at preschool-age and an online follow-up survey at school-age. Mothers completed measures of psychopathology, and mothers and alternate caregivers completed ratings of children's somatic complaints, anxiety, and depression at both time points. A high rate of child somatic complaints was noted in this sample. Regression analyses indicated that somatic complaints at preschool predicted somatic complaints, anxiety, and depression at school-age, and gender did not moderate these relationships. Overall, maternal psychopathology predicted somatic complaints, but findings were inconsistent across reporters, time points, and types of maternal psychopathology. Evidence of maternal perceptual distortion of children's somatic complaints was mixed. Clinical implications and future directions are discussed.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Prevalence of Somatic Complaints 1

Psychological Comorbidity 2

Developmental Trajectory 3

Biopsychosocial Framework 4

Maternal Psychopathology and Childhood Somatic Complaints 5

Current Study 7

Method 9

Participants 9

Demographics 10

Procedure 11

Measures 12

Statistical Approach 13

Results 13

Descriptive Analyses 14

Determining Covariates 14

Hypothesis Testing 14

Discussion 17

Potential Limitations and Future Directions 20

Conclusions 23

References 24

Tables 30

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