Social desirability response bias and self-report of psychological distress in pediatric chronic pain patients

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to investigate associations between social desirability response bias and self-report of pain, disability, and psychological distress (depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms) in a sample of children presenting to a multidisciplinary pediatric chronic pain clinic. A retrospective review was conducted on 414 consecutive clinic patients, ages 12–17 years, with chronic pain complaints of at least 3 months’ duration. As part of a clinical battery, children completed self-report psychological questionnaires including the Children’s Depression Inventory, Children’s Somatization Inventory, and Revised Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale including the Lie Scale, an indicator of social desirability influence. Children also provided self report of pain intensity, pain duration and functional disability. Clinician ratings of anxiety and depressive symptoms also were collected. Results show that children scoring high on the measure of social desirability reported fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to children scoring low on the social desirability index. No differences arose between these groups on reports of somatic symptoms, pain duration, or pain-related disability. These findings suggest that social desirability response bias may have implications for the self-report of psychological distress among pediatric chronic pain patients. The limits of self-report of symptoms should be considered in the clinical and research contexts.

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