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Self-reported headache in schoolchildren: Parents underestimate their children's headaches


Christofer Lundqvist, HØKH Health Services Research, Akershus University Hospital, NO-1474 Nordbyhagen, Norway. Tel: +47 67928800. Mobile: +47 47278881. E-mail:


Background: Most previous studies of childhood headache have used indirect parental/physician reports to estimate the prevalence of headache in children. Aim: To use direct information from children and to compare the results with data collected from parents. Study design/methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire was sent to parents of 7–12-y-olds in Oslo, Norway. The questionnaire included retrospective reports by the parents of the presence of headache among their children during the past 6 mo. A panel study was subsequently done with daily diaries completed by the children over 6 wk. This was done at school. Results: For 2126 children, both diary reports and parental reports were available. We found a 1-mo prevalence of self-reported headache of 57.6%. Parents, particularly fathers, reported lower headache prevalence than the children. The difference between parental reports and those of the children was larger when the child was a girl. There was a clear difference for the youngest children and parental underreporting for children with the most frequent headaches.

Conclusion: Since indirect parental reports of child headache underestimated headache frequency compared to direct diary-based self-reports, we suggest more widespread use of diary registration of headaches in studies of child headache.