Children with cognitive impairment: parent report of pain and coping

J Dev Behav Pediatr. 1999 Aug;20(4):228-34. doi: 10.1097/00004703-199908000-00005.


Information about pain in children with cognitive impairment is lacking. To gather pain-relevant information in this population, parents of 145 children with borderline to profound cognitive impairment were interviewed regarding their children's pain expression, experience, treatment, and coping behavior. Descriptions of pain expression and coping behavior were associated with the level of cognitive impairment. Children with mild to moderate cognitive impairment were more likely to be described as directly communicating their pain and exhibiting procedural coping strategies similar to those observed in children without cognitive impairments. More than half of the parents reported that their children experienced pain differently than did children without cognitive impairment, with the majority perceiving decreased pain sensitivity and greater pain tolerance. Finally, one third of parents felt that their children's pain was treated differently than that of other children. Half of these parents believed that health care providers had difficulties assessing and treating their children's pain. Results contribute to the developing foundation of information about pain in this special pediatric population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology*
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Quality of Health Care