A multi-level decomposition of variance in somatic symptom reporting in families with adolescent children

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Abstract

Objectives.

This paper examines four different levels of possible variation in symptom reporting: occasion, day, person and family.

Design.

In order to rule out effects of retrospection, concurrent symptom reporting was assessed prospectively using a computer-assisted self-report method.

Methods.

A decomposition of variance in symptom reporting was conducted using diary data from families with adolescent children. We used palmtop computers to assess concurrent somatic complaints from parents and children six times a day for seven consecutive days. In two separate studies, 314 and 254 participants from 96 and 77 families, respectively, participated. A generalized multilevel linear models approach was used to analyze the data. Symptom reports were modelled using a logistic response function, and random effects were allowed at the family, person and day level, with extra-binomial variation allowed for on the occasion level.

Results.

Substantial variability was observed at the person, day and occasion level but not at the family level.

Conclusions.

To explain symptom reporting in normally healthy individuals, situational as well as person characteristics should be taken into account. Family characteristics, however, would not help to clarify symptom reporting in all family members.

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