The Influence of Pain Memories on Children’s and Adolescents’ Post-Surgical Pain Experience: A Longitudinal Dyadic Analysis

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Objective: Although children’s pain memories have been shown to be a powerful predictor of subsequent pain experiences in acute procedural and experimental pain settings, little is known about the influence of children’s and parents’ pain memories on children’s future pain experiences in other painful contexts. This study used a dyadic approach to examine the roles of children’s and parents’ memories of pain on their subsequent reporting of postsurgical pain several months after the child underwent a major surgical procedure. Method: The sample included 66 parent–child dyads (Mage youth = 14.73 years, SD = 2.01) recruited from 2 tertiary level pediatric hospitals. At baseline, children and parents reported on their catastrophic thinking about the child’s pain. Parent and child reports of child pain were collected at approximately 1 month and 5 months postsurgery. At 2–4 months postsurgery, children’s and parents’ memories for postsurgical pain were assessed. Results: Results revealed that children’s, but not parents’, pain memories were a strong predictor of subsequent pain experienced at 5 months postsurgery. Children’s and parents’ memories for pain did not influence each others’ subsequent pain reporting. Conclusions: Findings suggest that children’s pain memories influence their continued recovery from postsurgical pain and may contribute to pain persistence. Implications for intervention and prevention are discussed.

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