Characterizing the Pain Narratives of Parents of Youth With Chronic Pain

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Questionnaire-based research has shown that parents exert a powerful influence on and are profoundly influenced by living with a child with chronic pain. Examination of parents’ pain narratives through an observational lens offers an alternative approach to understanding the complexity of pediatric chronic pain; however, the narratives of parents of youth with chronic pain have been largely overlooked. The present study aimed to characterize the vulnerability-based and resilience-based aspects of the pain narratives of parents of youth with chronic pain.


Pain narratives of 46 parents were recorded during the baseline session as part of 2 clinical trials evaluating a behavioral intervention for parents of youth with chronic pain. The narratives were coded for aspects of pain-related vulnerability and resilience.


Using exploratory cluster analysis, 2 styles of parents’ pain narratives were identified. Distress narratives were characterized by more negative affect and an exclusively unresolved orientation toward the child’s diagnosis of chronic pain, whereas resilience narratives were characterized by positive affect and a predominantly resolved orientation toward the child’s diagnosis. Preliminary support for the validity of these clusters was provided through our finding of differences between clusters in parental pain catastrophizing about child pain (helplessness).


Findings highlight the multidimensional nature of parents’ experience of their child’s pain problem. Clinical implications in terms of assessment and treatment are discussed.

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