British Journal of Health Psychology

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The prioritization of symptom beliefs over illness beliefs: The development and validation of the Pain Perception Questionnaire for Young People


To investigate the suitability of the revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ‐R) for use with adolescents with a long‐term pain condition and to validate a new questionnaire for use with this age group.


A three‐phase mixed‐methods study.


Phase 1 comprised in‐depth qualitative analyses of audio‐recorded cognitive interviews with 20 adolescents with juvenile idiopathic arthritis who were answering IPQ‐R items. Transcripts were coded using framework analysis. A content analysis of their intended responses to individual items was also conducted. In Phase 2, a new questionnaire was developed and its linguistic and face validity were assessed with 18 adolescents without long‐term conditions. In Phase 3, the construct validity of the new questionnaire was assessed with 240 adolescents with juvenile idiopathic arthritis. A subset of 43 adolescents completed the questionnaire a second time to assess test–retest reliability. All participants were aged 11–16 years.


Participants described both conceptual and response format difficulties when answering IPQ‐R items. In response, the Pain Perception Questionnaire for Young People (PPQ‐YP) was designed which incorporated significant modifications to both wording and response formats when compared with the IPQ‐R. A principal component analysis of the PPQ‐YP identified ten constructs in the new questionnaire. Emotional representations were separated into two constructs, responsive and anticipatory emotions. The PPQ‐YP showed high test–retest reliability.


Symptom beliefs appear to be more salient to adolescents with a long‐term pain condition than beliefs about the illness as a whole. A new questionnaire to assess pain beliefs of adolescents was designed. Further validation work may be needed to assess its suitability for use with other pain conditions.

What is already known on this subject?

  • Versions of the adult Revised Illness Perception Questionnaire (IPQ‐R) have been adapted for adolescents and children by changing item wording; however, research to assess the degree to which the underlying IPQ‐R constructs are relevant to adolescents with a long‐term condition had not been performed.

What the present study adds?

  • In adolescents, beliefs about symptoms of their condition are more salient than beliefs about the illness as a whole.
  • Question response formats for children and young people need to take account of age‐specific abilities.
  • A new questionnaire has been designed for adolescents with pain. It is theoretically congruent with the CS‐SRM.

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