Functional abdominal pain - which has no physical cause - is a common problem in children. Researchers from the University of Washington in Seattle looked into the effectiveness of family therapy in treating unexplained stomach pain in a study of 200 pairs of parents and children. The children's ages ranged from seven to 17 and half were assigned to a social learning/cognitive behaviour therapy group while the other half were given educational materials. Both groups showed improvement but the family therapy group showed a greater reduction in pain severity. The children in the therapy group also showed greater increases in their ability to distract themselves and ignore their pain and their parents also responded in a more appropriate manner. Previous research has shown that responding in a concerned and fearful way to a child's stomach pains can actually make the problem worse.
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