Abstract: Chronic fatigue syndrome and health control in adolescents and parents

Arch Dis Child. 2005 Jul 27; [Epub ahead of print]

van de Putte EM, Engelbert RH, Kuis W, Sinnema G, Kimpen JL, Uiterwaal CS.

Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, Netherlands.

BACKGROUND: Health behaviour and beliefs about health control are known to influence the outcome of an illness. Locus of health control is defined as the source from which health related behaviour is initiated. An internal locus refers to the belief that health is determined by one’s own behaviour or capacities. Locus of health control in children and adolescents with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and their parents has not been previously investigated.

OBJECTIVE: To explore the locus of health control in adolescents with CFS and their parents in comparison with healthy adolescents and their parents.

Method:In this cross-sectional study 32 adolescents with CFS were compared with 167 healthy controls and their respective parents. The Multidimensional Health Locus of Control (MHLC) questionnaire was applied to all participants.

RESULTS: There was significantly less internal health control in adolescents with CFS than in healthy controls. An increase of internal health control of one standard deviation was associated with a 61% reduced risk for CFS (odds ratio (OR) = 0.39, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.25; 0.61). Internal health control of the parents was protective as well (OR fathers: 0.57 (95% CI: 0.38; 0.87) and OR mothers: 0.74 (95% CI: 0.50; 1.09)). The external loci of health control were higher in adolescents with CFS and in their parents.

Increased levels of fatigue (56%) were found in the mothers of the adolescents with CFS, in contrast with the fathers who reported a normal percentage of 13%.

CONCLUSIONS: In comparison with healthy adolescents, adolescents with CFS and their respective parents show a less internal locus of health control. They attribute their health more to external factors, such as chance and physicians. This outcome is of relevance for treatment strategies like cognitive behaviour therapy, for which health behaviour is the main focus.

PMID: 16049059 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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