Objectives: To examine the relationships of parental and family pain history on the pain experience of children with chronic rheumatic disease. The aims of the study were as follows: 1) to describe the pain history of parents and families of children with rheumatic disease, 2) to examine relationships between parental and family pain history and the pain report and physician-rated health status of children with chronic rheumatic disease, and 3) to determine whether child coping mediates the relationship between family pain history and the child's pain and physician-rated health status.
Method: Parents of 100 children were recruited from a pediatric rheumatology clinic during routine visits. Parents completed questionnaires assessing parental pain history and family characteristics. Children in the study completed a series of questionnaires to assess pain and pain coping strategies, including the Coping Strategies Questionnaire and parts of the Pediatric Pain Questionnaire. A pediatric rheumatologist provided a global assessment of disease severity on a 100-mm visual analog scale as an index of child health status.
Results: A high number of parents of children seen in a pediatric rheumatology clinic described a personal pain history. More than 90% of parents reported having at least 1 chronic pain condition, with an equal proportion reporting an episode of pain in the past month. The most commonly reported pain conditions were lower back pain, shoulder/neck pain, and migraine headache pain. On average, this group of parents reported a history of 3.5 chronic pain conditions (standard deviation: 2.3) and reported having sought treatment for 1.7 (standard deviation: 2.3) of these conditions. Additionally, 93% of all parents reported extended family members experiencing at least 1 chronic pain condition. Correlational analyses indicated that parents reporting higher levels of current pain and higher mean levels of pain during the past month were more likely to have children reporting higher levels of current pain (r = 0.23 and r = 0.27). In addition, parents who sought more treatment for their own pain were more likely to have children reporting higher levels of pain (r = 0.22) and presenting with poorer health status (r = 0.22). Similarly, parents reporting higher levels of pain-related interference with activity were more likely to have children reporting higher levels of current pain (r = 0.23). Correlational analyses also indicated that children whose extended families reported a history of multiple pain conditions were more likely to report higher levels of current pain (r = 0.24) and more pain locations (r = 0.23). Finally, a series of mediational statistical models confirmed that child use of the pain coping strategy, catastrophizing, partially accounted for the relationship between several parent and family pain history variables and the child's own current pain ratings and physician global assessment. Specifically, child catastrophizing mediated the relationships between the total number of treated pain conditions and children's current pain ratings and physician global assessment. In addition, child catastrophizing was shown to mediate the relationship between parental mean level of pain in the past month and children's current pain rating and the relationship between total number of family pain conditions and children's current pain rating. Taken together, our results suggest that parental and familial pain experiences predict children's use of catastrophizing to cope with pain, which in turn predicts physician global assessment and children's current pain.
Conclusions: The results from the present study indicate that many of the parents of children seen in a pediatric rheumatology clinic have a personal pain history and highlight the potential impact of parental pain history on children's pain experiences. Specifically, parents who were more likely to seek treatment for their own pain or more likely to report interference with recreational activities because of pain had children with higher pain ratings and poorer health status as measured by the physician global assessment. Additionally, a series of mediational models showed that child catastrophizing serves as a specific mechanism through which parental and familial pain history variables influence child ratings of current pain and physician ratings of health status. Future studies are needed to determine exactly how children living in families with painful conditions become more reliant on catastrophizing to cope with their pain. In addition, more research is needed to identify other potential mediators, such as positive ways parents may influence children's pain coping. There are several important clinical implications of our findings. First, our results suggest that by gathering information from parents about their own pain histories, health care providers may be able to identify children at risk for developing maladaptive pain coping strategies and higher levels of disease-related pain and disability. Second, our results indicate that intervention programs should focus specifically on reducing children's use of catastrophizing to cope with their pain. Perhaps most importantly, our results highlight the need to include parents in interventions aimed at reducing children's pain and improving children's abilities to cope with pain.