A German scientist, Dr. Jennifer Gassmann (and her coauthors) has done a recent study on risk factors for childrens' headaches -- she and her team have determined that it is family quarrels and a lack of free time which seem to promote these health problems in children. This work appears in the current issue of the Deutsches Ärzteblatt International.
This investigation was a component of a large-scale study entitled “Children, Adolescents, and Headaches” in which data were collected in four annual “waves” from 2003 to 2006. Up to 30% of all children around the world complain of headache symptoms arising at least once per week. It can be heartbreaking when you hear your child complain regularly of headaches -- because it appears there is nothing you can do.
Now, it does indeed look as if there are some family changes that can help these kids. Boys who experienced more than one family quarrel per week had a 1.8 times higher risk of developing headaches. The amount of free time available to them seemed to be even more important: boys who only sometimes had time to themselves had a 2.1 times higher risk of developing headaches.
Parents’ behavior when their child complains of headache also seemed to play a major role. Either positive or negative reinforcement from the parents teaches the child that he or she can gain certain advantages from headache symptoms. The parents’ responses had a particularly strong effect on the frequency of symptoms in girls: reinforcing parental responses raised their risk of recurrent headaches by 25%.
The sexes also differed with respect to the frequency of headache. Twice as many girls as boys had their symptoms at least once a week. The children’s age, however, seemed to have no more than a minor effect on headache manifestations.