Children's memory for pain: overview and implications for practice

J Pain. 2004 Jun;5(5):241-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2004.05.001.


Children's memories of painful experiences can have long-term consequences for their reaction to later painful events and their acceptance of later health care interventions. This review surveys research on children's memory for pain, emphasizing implications for clinical practice. Topics reviewed include consequences of children's memories of pain; the development of memory; differences between explicit (declarative, verbal, autobiographic) memory and implicit (nondeclarative, nonverbal) memory; and individual differences, situational, and methodologic factors affecting memories of pain. Methods to prevent the adverse consequences of remembered pain are addressed with reference to current research on editing or reframing memories.

Perspective: This review covers topics of value to clinicians providing care to children undergoing painful procedures. Specific recommendations are offered regarding the importance of acknowledging and assessing children's previous memories of painful experiences, the type of information that benefits children before and after procedures, and the most appropriate questioning strategies. It might be possible to prevent or reduce the adverse effects of memories of pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / physiology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / prevention & control
  • Pain / psychology*