Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 36, Issue 5, pp 454–465 | Cite as

Somatic symptoms, peer and school stress, and family and community violence exposure among urban elementary school children

  • Shayla L. Hart
  • Stacy C. Hodgkinson
  • Harolyn M. E. Belcher
  • Corine Hyman
  • Michele Cooley-Strickland


Somatic symptoms are a common physical response to stress and illness in childhood. This study assessed 409, primarily African American (85.6 %), urban elementary school children to examine the association between: (1) somatic symptoms and potential external stressors (school and peer stress, family conflict, and community violence) and (2) parent and child agreement on children’s self-report of somatic symptoms. The odds of self-report of somatic complaints were significantly associated with family conflict, school and peer stress, and community violence exposure (OR = 1.26, 95 % CI: 1.05–1.50; OR = 1.18, 95 % CI 1.08–1.28; and OR = 1.02, 95 % CI: 1.00–1.05, respectively). Identifying the associations between social, family, and community based stress and somatic symptoms may improve the quality of life for children living in urban environments through early identification and treatment.


Somatic symptoms Peer relations Family conflict Youth Minority African American 



We would like to express our gratitude to the Baltimore City Public School System and students who participated in the MORE Project, as well as Robert Griffin and the MORE Project Research Team. This work was funded by support from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to the fifth author (PI: Cooley; 1 R01 DA018318) and to the third author (PI: Belcher; 1 R25 DA021630), as well as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the third author (PI: Belcher; U50/CCU325127).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shayla L. Hart
    • 1
  • Stacy C. Hodgkinson
    • 2
  • Harolyn M. E. Belcher
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Corine Hyman
    • 3
  • Michele Cooley-Strickland
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyHoward UniversityWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Children’s National Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  3. 3.Family Center at Kennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  5. 5.Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA
  6. 6.University of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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