Dealing with chronic pain: giving voice to the experiences of mothers with chronic pain and their children

Qual Health Res. 2008 Apr;18(4):489-500. doi: 10.1177/1049732308315433.


Despite the substantial monetary, personal, and social cost of chronic pain, research into the family life of sufferers is wanting. Parents dealing with chronic pain, as well as their children, have been particularly neglected. Using qualitative interview data from 16 mothers suffering from a variety of chronic pain conditions, and their 21 children, aged 6 to 12 years, we explored the impact of maternal chronic pain on mothers and children. Consistent with a gains-and-loss theory and the strengths perspective, the findings revealed both positive and challenging aspects of pain. Despite the presence of risks--including maternal stress, parenting difficulties, and children's distress--maternal chronic pain also provided opportunities for growth in many families. The findings suggest that maternal chronic pain can catalyze enhanced development as well as adversity. Researchers and clinicians should be aware of the pitfalls facing families dealing with chronic pain, while remaining open to the possibility that some families might flourish.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Family Health
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management