Well-Adjusted Children: An Alternate View of Children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Functional Gastrointestinal Complaints
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Previous studies have suggested impaired psychosocial adjustment in children and adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). We examined 62 subjects referred to a regional Pediatric Gastroenterology Clinic with IBD or functional gastrointestinal (FGI) complaints. Characteristics of the clinic include a unified team approach, regularly scheduled appointments at 3-month intervals, proactive medical care emphasizing maintenance of full functioning, and close medical-surgical interaction (joint clinics). A research assistant administered a questionnaire regarding children's perceptions of their illness, as well as the Child Depression Inventory (CDI), the Piers-Harris (PH) test of self-concept, and the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL). The 36 children with IBD (25 Crohn's disease, 11 ulcerative colitis, mean age 13.3 +/- 3.0 years) were compared with 26 patients with FGI complaints (16 recurrent abdominal pain, 10 functional megacolon, mean age 11.4 +/- 2.8 years). The scores on the standardized tests were not clinically significant for either group. In comparison, however, children with IBD were less depressed and had fewer behaviour problems than the FGI group. Surprisingly, only 19% (7 of 36) of children with IBD described their illness as a problem to them, compared with 65% (17 of 26) of children with FGI symptoms. The latter children also considered themselves significantly sicker than did those with IBD. We conclude that normal psychosocial adjustment is possible in pediatric patients with IBD. We speculate that this group benefitted from the professional supports that our clinic specifically provides to patients with IBD. The FGI group may have suffered from a lack of such professional supports, as well as from the absence of a specific diagnosis.