Everyday pain responses in children with and without developmental delays

J Pediatr Psychol. 2000 Jul-Aug;25(5):301-8. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/25.5.301.


Objective: To examine whether children with developmental delays respond to painful events differently than nondelayed children.

Methods: Sixty families participated. Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years were observed at daycare centers while engaged in usual daily activities, such as free play. Spontaneous painful incidents and the child's responses were recorded using an observational measure (Dalhousie Everyday Pain Scale) designed to capture pain behavior.

Results: Children with developmental delays (n = 24) displayed a less intense distress response to an equivocal pain event than nondelayed children (n = 36). Children with developmental delays were more likely to display no reaction following a pain event, whereas children without delays cried more often. Further, children with developmental delays engaged in fewer help-seeking behaviors and were less likely to display a social response following a pain event than nondelayed children.

Conclusions: Children with developmental delays appear to react in a different manner to pain events than nondelayed children do; we discuss a possible socio-communicative deficit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Age Factors
  • Anger
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Psychological
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires