Children with Psychological Distress or Epilepsy: Somatization and Adaptive Skills



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The following study examines two samples of children; children diagnosed as having a chronic illness, and children experiencing psychological distress. Children from both samples are at risk for similar things: poor social skills, challenges in establishing peer relationships, and the later development of psychiatric disorders in adulthood. Adding to these negative outcomes is the development of somatic complaints within each sample. Little research has examined children experiencing psychological distress prior to diagnosis, nor has a comprehensive study been conducted on children with epilepsy examining each of the adaptive skill areas. Further study of the adaptive skill areas for each group provides a foundation for understanding the strengths and weaknesses that each sample has. The following study is a quantitative, multisource, retrospective research project using parent/guardian completed rating scales relating to child behaviors; medical history information was also obtained from the chronic illness group. The relationship between somatic complaints and adaptive skills for children experiencing psychological distress (n = 128) was explored utilizing nonparametric statistical analysis. Additional nonparametric analyses were used for children with chronic illness (n = 94) to understand the relationship between adaptive skills and somatic complaints with the added medical factors of duration of illness and age of onset.

The results of the children experiencing psychological distress suggest that age and sex play a role in adaptive skills, with both groups sharing common deficits in functional communication and adaptive skills. Internalizing and externalizing disorders were both positively correlated with somatic complaints, while adaptability and leadership were negatively correlated. The results of the epilepsy group indicate differing adaptive skill profiles for the complex partial (CP) and secondary generalized (SGTC) tonic clonic group. SGCT group had deficits in the areas of activities of daily living and leadership, while the CP group had no reported adaptive skill concerns but elevations in somatization. For both groups, onset and duration of illness were correlated with adaptability, functional communication and activities of daily living. Exploratory analysis utilizing teacher reports yielded negative correlations between somatization and functional communication, and deficits in the area of adaptability for the CP seizure group.