Brief report: maternal emotional availability and infant pain-related distress

J Pediatr Psychol. 2009 Aug;34(7):722-6. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsn110. Epub 2008 Oct 13.


Objectives: The current study investigated the relationships between maternal emotional availability and infant pain expressions.

Methods: A group of 73 mother-infant dyads were recruited prior to their routine immunization appointment and were subsequently filmed.

Results: Analyses revealed that maternal non-intrusiveness was related to lower infant pain expressions both immediately and 1 min following needle. In addition, maternal sensitivity and overall emotional availability were related to lower infant pain expressions 1 min after needle.

Conclusions: These results suggest that intrusive caregiving behaviors can increase infant pain reactivity and hinder the regulation of pain-related distress. On the other hand, sensitive and emotionally available caregiving help infants to regulate their pain-related distress. The results support that infant pain expressions are related to the quality of maternal caregiving.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Emotions*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization / psychology
  • Infant
  • Infant Behavior / psychology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Pain Measurement / psychology
  • Pain Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*