Somatic Symptoms in Adolescents with an Ill Parent


Elliott, Lindsey C.; Stager, Lindsay M.; Long, Dustin; Goodin, Burel R.; & Fobian, Aaron D. (2022). Somatic Symptoms in Adolescents with an Ill Parent. Psychosomatic Medicine. , PMCID: PMC9069706


Objective Parent chronic illness may increase somatic symptomology risk in children. The current study examines this association in relation to a variety of chronic illnesses and also considers possible related parental and adolescent background factors. Methods Secondary analyses utilized longitudinal data from the University of North Carolina National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. Interviews were used to assess demographics, adolescent somatic symptoms, living situation, and parental illness and general physical health. Somatic symptoms in adolescents with no ill parents (N = 2,302 adolescents; Mage = 15.3) were compared with adolescents with ill mothers (N = 2,336; Mage = 15.3), ill fathers (N = 1,304; Mage = 15.3), or two ill parents (N = 3,768; Mage = 15.3) using Poisson regression models. We also examined the role of living status, adolescent sex, and parent general physical health on somatic symptom outcomes. Results Elevated somatic symptoms were observed in adolescents with ill mothers (MR = 1.15, p = .015) and with both parents ill (MR = 1.10, p < 0.001). Among adolescents with ill parents, females had more symptoms than males (ill mother: MR = 1.12, p < 0.001; ill father: MR = 1.23, p < 0.001; and both parents ill: MR = 1.23, p < 0.001). Poorer maternal physical health also increased somatic symptom risk (MR = 1.12, p = .02). Longitudinally, adolescents with ill mothers (MR = 1.14, p < 0.001), ill fathers (MR = 1.13, p < 0.001), or both parents ill (MR = 1.16, p < 0.001) had increased somatic symptom risk. Wave I somatic symptoms also increased future risk: ill mother (MR = 1.19, p < 0.001), ill father (MR = 1.22, p < 0.001), or both parents ill (MR = 1.20, p < 0.001). Conclusions The above results highlight that having an ill parent is a risk factor for adolescent somatic symptoms. In addition, other factors such as adolescent sex play an additional role in adolescent somatic symptoms. Corresponding Author: Aaron D. Fobian, Ph.D., 1720 2nd Ave. S., SC 1004, Birmingham, AL 35294, phone: (205) 934-2241 fax: (205) 975-6559, Conflicts of Interest and Source of Funding: The authors have no conflicts of interest relevant to this article to disclose. All phases of this study were supported by The University of Alabama at Birmingham. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), grant number K23DK106570. Copyright © 2022 by American Psychosomatic Society




Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Psychosomatic Medicine


Elliott, Lindsey C.
Stager, Lindsay M.
Long, Dustin
Goodin, Burel R.
Fobian, Aaron D.

Year Published






Reference ID