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Parents’ experience when their child has chronic abdominal pain: a qualitative study in Norway
  1. Anne Brodwall1,
  2. Kari Glavin2,
  3. Per Lagerløv3
  1. 1Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Vestre Viken Trust, Baerum, Norway
  2. 2Department of Health, VID Specialized University Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  3. 3Department of General Practice, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anne Brodwall; abrodwa{at}


Objective Functional abdominal pain occurs frequently in children and adolescents. It is an exclusion diagnosis; somatic diseases have to be ruled out. However little explanation is given for why the child is experiencing pain. The aim was to explore the experiences of parents of children with chronic abdominal pain discharged from hospital without a somatic explanation.

Design The study has a qualitative design. The open questions concerned pain experiences and management. Interviews were conducted at the hospital, at the parents’ workplace or in their homes, audiotape recorded and transcribed. A descriptive content analysis was used to analyse the transcribed text.

Setting Parents of children referred from general practice located in urban and rural areas in two municipals in Norway.

Participants Fourteen parents of children with functional abdominal pain aged 5–15 years.

Results Fourteen parents participated. Some explained that their child’s disability glued the parents together on a common project to help the child. Other parents could tell that siblings got less attention and complained about too much fuss during pain. Parents wished for diagnosis that could be treated efficiently. Some were still anxious that an undetected condition triggered pain. They prompted their doctor to do further examinations. However, some parents knew that social factors could inflict pain and were concerned that their child was unable to distinguish sensations like anxiety and ‘butterfly’ tensions from physical pain. The parents and children needed professional guidance on how to manage the pain .

Conclusion The doctor’s consultation should not end at the diagnosis of functional abdominal pain. Doctors may help these families further by focusing on pain management strategies.

  • paediatric gastroenterology
  • primary care
  • qualitative research
  • pain management
  • functional bowel disorders

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  • Contributors The paper was conceived by AB, KG and PL. AB wrote the first draft, with further contributions from all authors. Questionnaire design, ethics applications and piloting were undertaken by AB. All authors contributed to data interpretation, reviewed successive drafts and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The study was supported by grants from The Norwegian Committee on Research in General Practice (2016 /11 and 2015 /11)

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Parental/guardian consent obtained.

  • Ethics approval The Regional Committees for Medical and Health Research Ethics in Norway approved the study (reference no. 2015/1928). The study has followed the operational principles of the Declaration of Helsinski and has adhered to the Belmont Report principles (respect for persons; beneficence; and justice) when obtaining valid informed consent from parents.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The data set is not available.

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