Parental Overprotection Predicts the Development of Functional Somatic Symptoms in Young Adolescents

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Abstract

Objective

To examine whether parental overprotection contributes to the development of functional somatic symptoms (FSS) in young adolescents. In addition, we aimed to study whether this potential effect of parental overprotection is mediated by parenting distress and/or moderated by the adolescent's sex.

Study design

FSS were measured in 2230 adolescents (ages 10 to 12 years from the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey) by the Somatic Complaints subscale of the Youth Self Report at baseline and at follow-up 2½ years later. Parental overprotection as perceived by the child was assessed by means of the EMBU-C (Swedish acronym for my memories of upbringing-child version). Parents completed the Parenting Stress Index. Linear regression analyses were performed adjusted for FSS at baseline and sex.

Results

Parental overprotection was a predictor of the development of FSS in young adolescents (β = 0.055,P< .01). Stratified analyses revealed that maternal overprotection was a predictor of the development of FSS in girls (β = 0.085,P< .02), whereas paternal overprotection was a predictor of the development of FSS in boys (β = 0.072,P< .01). A small (5.7%) but significant mediating effect of maternal parenting stress in the relationship between parental overprotection and FSS was found.

Conclusions

Parental overprotection may play a role in the development of FSS in young adolescents.

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