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OBJECTIVES: To explore health anxiety in children with recurrent abdominal pain (RAP) using a symbolic play assessment. METHODS: Children with RAP and two control groups (with asthma and well children) were recruited. Eighty-four families completed play and questionnaire assessments of health anxiety and psychological functioning. RESULTS: Children with RAP demonstrated less use of psychological descriptions for feelings than control children, and were more likely to represent serious outcomes to health scenarios than well children, but not children with asthma. Mothers of children with RAP had higher levels of health anxiety, and rated their children as having more physical symptoms and anxiety. CONCLUSIONS: The symbolic play paradigm provided discriminating insights into health anxiety in children. The findings suggest that childhood RAP may be associated with higher levels of parental health anxiety. These aspects of family functioning might usefully be explored in families where a child has RAP.

Original publication




Journal article


J Pediatr Psychol

Publication Date





409 - 419


Abdominal Pain, Anxiety, Attitude to Health, Case-Control Studies, Child, Family, Female, Humans, Male, Play and Playthings, Recurrence, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires