Expected and reported pain in children undergoing ear piercing: a randomized trial of preparation by parents

Behav Res Ther. 2002 Mar;40(3):253-66. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(01)00008-0.


This study examined experimentally the effectiveness of preparatory information provided by parents in creating accurate expectations and reducing children's procedural pain. Ear piercing was used as an analogue to minor painful medical procedures. Sixty children, aged 5-12 years, requesting ear piercing and accompanied by their parents, were randomly assigned to a parental information or contact-control condition. Parents in the information group were asked to read their child a description of the procedures and sensations of ear piercing. Parents in the contact-control condition played picture games for the same amount of time. Expected pain was measured on a visual analogue scale (VAS) and the Faces Pain Scale-Revised (FPS-R) before and after the parental information or contact-control procedure. Experienced pain was measured on the same two scales immediately after the ear piercing. Prepared children had more accurate expectations and reported significantly less pain (M=27.3) than non-prepared children (M=49.8). The validity of the measures was supported by strong correlations (r=0.87 to 0.96) between the VAS and FPS-R. The findings suggest that parental provision of preparatory information creates accurate expectations and reduces pain for children.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cosmetic Techniques / adverse effects
  • Cosmetic Techniques / psychology*
  • Ear, External / surgery*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Parents