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Pain Research and Management
Volume 15, Issue 1, Pages 27-41

Social Functioning and Peer Relationships in Children and Adolescents with Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review

Paula A Forgeron,1 Sara King,1 Jennifer N Stinson,2 Patrick J McGrath,1 Amanda J MacDonald,1 and Christine T Chambers1

1Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
2University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2010 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Peer relationships during childhood and adolescence are acknowledged to be negatively impacted by chronic pain; however, to date there has been no synthesis of this literature.

OBJECTIVE: To systematically review existing literature describing the social functioning and peer relationships in children and adolescents with recurrent or continuous chronic pain.

METHODS: Articles on peer relationship factors studied in samples of children and adolescents with chronic pain published in English or French were identified using EMBASE, Medline, CINAHL and PsycINFO. Two independent reviewers performed initial screenings using study titles and abstracts, and reviewed each eligible article in full.

RESULTS: Of 1740 published papers yielded by the search, 42 articles met the inclusion criteria and were included in the present review. Nine studies had peer relationship investigation as the primary purpose of the study; the remaining 33 examined peer relationships as part of a broader study. A range of specific and more general measures was used to examine peer relationships. Across studies, children and adolescents with chronic pain were reported to have fewer friends, be subjected to more peer victimization, and were viewed as more isolated and less likeable than healthy peers.

CONCLUSIONS: Children and adolescents with chronic pain have peer relationship deficiencies. However, the majority of studies to date measure peer relationships as part of a broader study and, thus, little attention has been paid specifically to peer relationships in this group. Additional research examining the quality of peer relationships of children and adolescents with chronic pain, as well as development of measures specifically designed to assess these relationships, is needed.