How accurate are parental chronic pain histories provided by offspring?

Pain. 2005 Jun;115(3):390-397. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2005.03.017.


Previous work suggests possible relationships between offspring-reported parental history of chronic pain (CP) and offsprings' personal chronic pain experience. This study examined reliability of offsprings' reports of parental CP history based on direct comparison with confirmed parental reports. Participants included 108 male and female college students who completed a questionnaire assessing presence/absence and locations of any past or present CP lasting greater than 3 months. Information on maternal and paternal CP history was obtained using a similar questionnaire based both on offspring reports and on reports provided directly by offsprings' parents (for 75 participants). Results indicated relatively high sensitivity (0.79-0.94) but modest specificity (0.55-0.63) for offspring reports of parental CP history, and a tendency to overestimate the incidence of CP in both parents. Significant (Ps<0.001) but moderate inter-rater reliability was noted for judgments of parental CP history (kappas=0.41-0.53). Reliability generally decreased when offspring were asked to report on specific locations of parental CP. Offspring-reported parental CP history predicted (Ps<0.05) presence and number of locations at which offspring reported having personally experienced CP, consistent with previous studies. Results indicated that these relationships were not mediated by social desirability, negative affect, or catastrophizing cognitions. In contrast to results for offspring-reported data, confirmed parental CP history reports failed to predict offsprings' personal CP history. These results raise questions as to the validity of previous findings of relationships between family pain history and individuals' own experience of CP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chronic Disease
  • Data Collection
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / standards*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / standards*
  • Parents*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity