Attachment and pain outcomes in adolescents: the mediating role of pain catastrophizing and anxiety

J Pain. 2010 Feb;11(2):160-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2009.06.015. Epub 2009 Oct 22.

Abstract

This study examined the relations between attachment styles and pain severity/depression in adolescents. Analyses examined whether anxiety and the 3 dimensions of pain catastrophizing mediated the associations between attachment styles, pain severity and depression. A total of 382 high-school students completed questionnaires assessing attachment styles, catastrophizing, depression, anxiety and, for those who reported pain during the last month, pain severity. Results revealed that secure attachment was associated with lower levels of pain severity, depression, pain catastrophizing and anxiety. Preoccupied and fearful attachment styles were associated with heightened pain severity, depression, pain catastrophizing and anxiety. Dismissing attachment style was only associated with high levels of depression and anxiety. Regression analyses revealed that anxiety and the helplessness dimension of pain catastrophizing mediated the relations between secure, preoccupied and fearful attachment styles and pain severity. Moreover, anxiety and the rumination dimension of pain catastrophizing mediated the relation between secure, preoccupied and fearful attachment styles and depression. These findings suggest that anxiety, pain catastrophizing and attachment styles are related processes but nevertheless make independent contributions to the prediction of pain severity and depression. In addition, these findings suggest that attachment styles and cognitive-affective factors might increase the risk of problematic outcomes in adolescents with pain conditions. Theoretical and clinical implications of these results are discussed.

Perspective: The results of this study revealed that anxiety and the helplessness dimension of pain catastrophizing mediated the relation between attachment and pain severity whereas anxiety and rumination mediated the relation between attachment and depression. Attachment style and cognitive-affective factors might increase vulnerability for problematic pain outcomes in adolescents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Catastrophic Illness / psychology
  • Child
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Negotiating / methods
  • Object Attachment*
  • Pain / classification
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain / rehabilitation
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Regression Analysis
  • Sex Characteristics