The role of parenting in the relationship between maternal chronic pain and negative child outcomes, including internalizing, externalizing, and social and health problems, was investigated. Parenting strategies used by mothers with chronic pain were compared to parenting strategies used by a control group of mothers without pain. Thirty-nine mothers experiencing chronic pain, their 55 children, 35 pain-free mothers, and their 48 children participated in the study. The results showed that for mothers with chronic pain, dysfunctional parenting strategies and the quality of the mother-child relationship were related to negative child outcomes. Mothers with chronic pain were more likely to engage in lax parenting and report reduced relationship quality with children than were control mothers. For the chronic pain group, over-reactive parenting was found to mediate the relationship between maternal physical functioning and child adjustment. Dysfunctional parenting strategies may constitute part of the risk that maternal chronic pain poses for children. The similarities between the impact of maternal chronic pain on child adjustment and that of other maternal stressors, such as depression, are discussed.
Perspective: In mothers with chronic pain, poor maternal physical functioning was associated with increased maternal over-reactive behavior that was in turn related to poor child adjustment. Maternal over-reactive behavior did not, however, differ in chronic pain and control mothers.