There has been a longstanding recognition that adult patients with chronic pain are not a homogenous population and that there are subgroups of patients who report high levels of distress and interpersonal difficulties as well as subgroups of patients who report little distress and high functioning. The purpose of the present study was to attempt to identify similar subgroups in a pediatric chronic pain population.
The sample consisted of 117 children with chronic pain and their parents who were assessed in a multidisciplinary pain clinic during 2001. Participants completed a set of psychologic self-report questionnaires, as well as demographic and pain characteristic information. A cluster analysis was conducted to identify 3 distinct subgroups of patients to replicate similar studies of adult chronic pain sufferers.
Overall, mean scores were within population norms on measures of distress and family functioning, with somatic symptoms at a level of clinical significance. The cluster analysis identified the 3 subgroups that were strikingly similar to those identified in adult chronic pain populations: one with high levels of distress and disability, another with relatively low scores on distress and disability, and a third group that scored in between the other 2 on these measures but with marked low family cohesion.
The similarity of these subgroups to the adult chronic pain population subgroups as well as implications for future studies are discussed.