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Psychosocial Factors Affecting Parental Report of Symptoms in Children A Systematic Review

Publication date: 

7 Feb 2020


Psychosomatic Medicine: February/March 2020 - Volume 82 - Issue 2 - p 187-196 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000767


Smith LE. Weinman J, Yiend J and Rubin GJ

Publication type: 



Objective Parents make important treatment decisions for their children based on symptoms they perceive their child to be experiencing. Multiple psychological factors are associated with subjective symptom perception, but factors affecting perception of symptoms in others have been explored less. We systematically reviewed the literature to identify parent and child psychological factors associated with parental report of physical symptoms in their child. Methods We searched Embase, Ovid, PsycINFO, and Scopus for studies that investigated associations between psychological factors and parental report of symptoms in their child. Results Thirty-six citations reporting on 34 studies that assessed the association between parent or child psychological factors and parental report of physical symptoms in the child were included in the review. Three main factors were identified as being associated with parental symptom report. First, there was evidence for an association between parental symptom report and affect, in particular parent and child anxiety. Second, child behavioral and conduct problems, and temperament-related challenges (problems with feeding and sleeping) were associated with parental symptom report. Third, parental expectations and beliefs that symptoms would occur were associated with parental symptom report, although few studies investigated these associations. Conclusions Parent and child affect, and parental expectations and beliefs may influence parents’ cognition, causing them to pay more attention to their child, interpret their child’s behavior as symptomatic, and recall symptoms in the child. Given the importance of parental perception of symptoms in driving decisions around care, additional research in this field is needed.