Parents who catastrophize about their child’s pain prioritize attempts to control pain


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Abstract

TOC summaryParents endorsing catastrophic thoughts about child pain have a higher priority for pain control attempts over encouraging engagement of their child in daily activities.How parents respond to their child in pain is critically important to how both parent and child attempt to cope with pain. We examined the influence of parental catastrophic thinking about child pain on their prioritization for pain control. Using a vignette methodology, parents reported, in response to different pain scenarios, on their imagined motivation for 2 competing goals: to control their child’s pain (ie, pain control) or to encourage their child’s participation in daily activities (ie, activity engagement). The effects of parent gender, pain intensity, and duration on parental goal priority were also explored. Findings indicated that higher levels of parental catastrophic thoughts were associated with the parents prioritizing child pain control over activity engagement. This effect was significantly moderated by pain duration. Specifically, pain control was more of a priority for those high in catastrophic thinking when the pain was more acute. In contrast, parental catastrophic thoughts had no effect on the pain control strategy favored by parents in situations with longer-lasting pain. Furthermore, independently of parental catastrophic thoughts, heightened priority for pain control was observed in highly intense and chronic pain situations. Moreover, in highly intense pain, priority for pain control was stronger for mothers compared with fathers. Theoretical and clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

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