• academic achievement;
  • recurrent abdominal pain

Objective:  The present study aimed to investigate the extent to which recurrent abdominal pain and other factors were associated with academic achievement among Year-6 (12 years of age) schoolchildren.

Methods:  The present study was a cross-sectional survey conducted from September to November 2001. Schoolchildren were recruited from primary schools that were selected randomly from a list of all primary schools in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, using random sampling numbers. Information concerning recurrent abdominal pain, socio-economic status, life events, demographic and other details was obtained using a combination of questionnaires and interviews. Academic achievement was assessed using a score based on the Malaysian Primary School Achievement Examination. An overall score at or above the mean was taken to indicate high academic achievement while a score below the mean indicated poor academic achievement.

Results:  A total of 1971 children were studied (958 boys and 1013 girls: 1047 Malays, 513 Chinese and 411 Indians). Of these children, 456 (23.1%) fulfilled the criteria for recurrent abdominal pain. Using the method of binary logistic regression analysis, the following factors were found to be independently associated with poor academic performance: a low socio-economic status (odds ratio (OR) 1.30; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.25−1.35); male sex (OR 1.61; 95% CI 1.26−2.05); the death of a close relative (OR 2.22; 95% CI 1.73−2.85); the divorce or separation of parents (OR 3.05; 95% CI 1.73−5.40); the commencement of work by the mother (OR 1.34; 95% CI 1.02−1.76); hospitalization of the child in the 12 months prior to the study (OR 1.83; 95% CI 1.12−3.01); lack of health-care consultation (OR 1.80; 95% CI 1.36−2.36); missing breakfast (OR 1.47; 95% CI 1.07−2.02); and lack of kindergarten education (OR 1.35; 95% CI 1.04−1.75).

Conclusions:  Many factors, such as socio-economic status and recent life events, were associated with poor academic performance. Recurrent abdominal pain did not correlate directly to academic performance. Stress may be a means by which various factors cause children to struggle academically.