Somatic Complaints: To what extent do emotion regulation skills contribute to the experience of somatic complaints in children and adolescents?

 Carolien Rieffe, PhD 

Somatic complaints are part of the everyday life of many children. The central question of this research is which emotion regulation skills affect the experience of somatic complaints in childhood and to what extent. The etiology of complaints such as abdominal pain, headaches, and fatigue is not yet completely understood. Whereas psycho-physiological reactions can contribute to the experience of somatic complaints, it remains a matter of concern that there is insufficient knowledge of the underlying emotion processes.

Our first and most essential subject is which factors in the emotion processing can account for variance in somatic complaints. The second is which social influences might make a further contribution. More specifically, within the processing of emotions all three steps are considered, being: attention, appraisal and emotion regulation. Among the variables included are: sense of coherence, emotional self-efficacy, emotional abilities, and coping. With regard to social influences, parental reinforcement and social interactions with peers are taken into account. We use multiple methods of assessment: self-report questionnaires, parental reports and tasks that do not rely on self-ratings, and we focus on non-clinical and clinical groups (GP, outpatient clinics) of children aged 8 to 15. We strive for an improvement in the understanding of the complex psychosocial influences on children’s experience of somatic complaints.

Publications on somatic complaints