Children with some chronic health conditions experience family functioning difficulties. However, research examining family functioning in youth with functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) has produced mixed results. Therefore, the current review critically synthesized the literature on family functioning among youth with FGIDs.
A systematic search using pediatric, family functioning, and FGID search terms was conducted in PubMed, PsycInfo, and ProQuest. Out of the 586 articles initially identified, 17 studies met inclusion criteria. Studies were included if they presented original research in English, assessed family functioning, and the study sample consisted of children (0–18 years) diagnosed with a FGID. Quality assessment ratings were conducted for each included study based on a previously developed scientific merit 3-point rating system.
The majority of studies (n = 13) examined family functioning between youth with FGIDs and comparison groups. The remaining studies explored associations between family functioning and study variables (e.g., child psychosocial functioning and sociodemographic factors) and examined family functioning clusters among children with FGIDs. In general, children with FGIDs demonstrated poorer family functioning compared to healthy counterparts. Findings also suggested that child psychosocial functioning, disease characteristics, and sociodemographic factors were related to family functioning among youth with FGIDs. The average quality of studies was moderate (M = 2.3).
Maintaining healthy family functioning appears to be challenging for some families of children with FGIDs. Future research should explore the directionality of the relationship between family functioning and child physical and psychosocial outcomes to advance the understanding and treatment of pediatric FGIDs.