Researchers say that children with behavioural problems are twice as likely to suffer chronic pain as adults than others. Scientists at Aberdeen University, who followed the lives of more than 19,000 children, think faulty hormone signals in the brain may play a key role. Bad early life experiences may harm this brain system, causing both behavioural problems in childhood and chronic widespread pain in adulthood.
The study, published in the journal Rheumatology, spans 45 years and all of the children were born in 1958, and mostly in the UK. Throughout the study, up until the age of 16, parents and teachers assessed the children’s behaviour looking for any “problem” signs such as poor ability to make friends, disobedience, stealing, thumb sucking and nail biting, lying, bullying and truanting. When the children had grown up and reached the age of 42 they completed a questionnaire asking about psychological distress. At the age of 45 they completed another one about pain. From this the researchers found that children with severe behavioural problems had double the risk of chronic widespread pain.