Linking Family Functioning and Self-Discrepancies among Children with Functional Somatic Symptoms

Tamar Silberg, Hila Drucker-Bezalel, Maya Gerner, Tal Krasovsky, Ety Berant, Amichai Brezner, Jana Landa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Functional somatic symptoms (FSS), defined as physical symptoms of unknown pathology, are common among children and adolescents and are often associated with high levels of functional impairment. Self-discrepancy theory (SDT) suggests that discrepancies between one’s ideal, ought, or undesired self-states and one’s actual self-representation may lead to emotional distress. Among families with dysfunctional patterns, such emotional distress may result in FSS. The current study examined the relationship between familial patterns and children’s levels of self-discrepancies, among children with and without FSS. Twenty-three children diagnosed with FSS and 23 children with orthopedic problems (non-FSS) and their mothers participated in the study. Mothers and children completed the Child Somatization Inventory and the Integrated Self-Discrepancies Index. Mothers also completed the general scale of the Family Assessment Device. Higher levels of symptom intensity were found in the FSS group than in the non-FSS group. Dysfunctional familial patterns were significantly higher in the FSS group, and higher levels of discrepancies were reported in the FSS group, compared with the non-FSS group. No significant relationship was found in the FSS group between level of self-state discrepancies and level of family functioning. Higher levels of dysfunctional patterns are observed among families of children with FSS. Furthermore, children with FSS and their mothers hold relatively high levels of self-state discrepancies. However, these elevated discrepancies are not significantly related to familial dysfunctional patterns. Viewing self-state discrepancies together with family maladaptive patterns might help address both inter- and intrapersonal conflicts within the family and reduce children’s symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1473-1481
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Childhood FSS
  • Emotional distress
  • Family assessment
  • Family communication
  • Self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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