Therapeutic treatments for children with Recurrent Abdominal Pain: A multiple baseline pilot study

Christine Barrett Sieberg, University of Rhode Island


Chronic pain in children is a significant problem affecting about 15-20% of children (Goodman & McGrath, 1991), yet it is a neglected area in pediatric research and clinical service. Recurrent Abdominal Pain (RAP) is an example of chronic pain in children and one of the most common complaints of childhood and is associated with many adverse outcomes. Research has also identified parental anxiety and depression as potent risk factors for RAP (Garber et al., 1990). Despite the high prevalence rates of RAP, only 12 intervention studies from 1974-2006 have been conducted in this area (Spirito & Kazak, 2006). The primary aim of the present study was to determine whether a cognitive-behavioral treatment or a treatment that combines both cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy would be most effective in lessening the pain and anxiety often associated with RAP in children. Specifically, this study conceptualized RAP from an anxiety perspective, in that the inclusionary criteria included a diagnosed anxiety disorder, which a unique approach in the treatment of RAP. The treatment manuals were adapted from existing evidence-based manuals (i.e., Kendall's Coping Cat Program for Anxious Children and Beardslee's Preventive Family Intervention). A multiple-baseline across participants design utilizing repeated measures of anxiety, pain, and family environment for both children and parents was implemented (n=8 families). Results indicate that when examining the clinical significance of both treatment manuals, generally the treatments did not exacerbate symptoms and often improved abdominal pain and related symptoms per child and parent report. As some initial studies have indicated (e.g., Sanders et al., 1989; 1994), CBT is a useful treatment approach for children with RAP and the present study also lends support to this conclusion, though much more research is warranted. However, this study also underscores the potential importance of integrating the family into the treatment of RAP. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical|Psychology, Physiological

Recommended Citation

Christine Barrett Sieberg, "Therapeutic treatments for children with Recurrent Abdominal Pain: A multiple baseline pilot study" (2009). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI3401126.