School anxiety is a prevalent mental health concern that drives school-related disability among youth with chronic pain. The only available measure of school anxiety—the School Anxiety Inventory, Short Version (SAI-SV)—lacks content specificity for measuring school anxiety in pediatric pain populations. We aimed to refine the SAI-SV by obtaining qualitative data about unique school situations that are anxiety-provoking for youth with pain and characterizing the nature of symptoms experienced in these situations.
Adolescents with chronic pain (n = 16) completed a semistructured interview focused on experiences with anxiety in school-related academic and social contexts. We employed thematic analysis to extend the empirical understanding of school anxiety from the perspective of patients suffering from pain and to generate new item content. The content was refined with iterative feedback from a separate group of adolescents with chronic pain (n = 5) and a team of expert pain psychologists (n = 3).
We identified six themes within the data and generated new items designed to capture anxiety related to negative interactions with teachers and peers, falling behind with schoolwork, and struggles with concentration and fatigue. Participants and experts rated new item content as highly relevant for use among youth with pain. The updated item bank was named the School Anxiety Inventory for Chronic Pain.
Future research is needed to complete the psychometric evaluation of the item bank and finalize items to be included in a measure that can be used in research and clinical settings. Implications for treating school-related anxiety among youth with pain are also discussed.