Social functioning and peer relationships of adolescents with juvenile fibromyalgia syndrome

Journal: Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2007. Mar29;57(3):474-480

Authors and affiliations: Kashikar-Zuck S, Lynch AM, Graham TB, Swain NF, Mullen SM, Noll RB. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio.

PMID: 17394218

Objective: To assess peer relationships of adolescents with juvenile primary Fibromyalgia Syndrome (JPFS) compared with matched classroom comparison peers (MCCPs) without a chronic illness.

JPFS is characterized by chronic musculoskeletal pain, sleep disturbance, fatigue, and difficulty with daily functioning. Adolescents with JPFS often report problems with school and participating in peer activities, placing them at risk for social isolation from their peers and psychosocial adjustment problems.

Methods: Participants were 55 adolescents with JPFS (ages 12-18 years) from a pediatric outpatient rheumatology clinic and 55 MCCPs. Data on peer reputation and peer acceptance were collected from teachers, peers, and self report in a classroom setting with no focus on JPFS.

Results: Adolescents with JPFS were perceived (by peer and self reports) as being more isolated and withdrawn and less popular. Adolescents with JPFS were less well liked, were selected less often as a best friend, and had fewer reciprocated friendships.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that adolescents with JPFS are experiencing problems with peer relationships.

Given the central role that peer relationships play in psychological development of children, and because peer rejection and isolation have been associated with subsequent adjustment problems, these findings are concerning.

Longitudinal studies of adolescents with JPFS are needed to ascertain whether these patients are at long-term risk and will provide a foundation for the need for early interventions. Results are discussed within the context of earlier findings for other adolescents with chronic illness and rheumatic conditions, such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis, who demonstrated no social problems.

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