Children's memory for painful procedures: the relationship of pain intensity, anxiety, and adult behaviors to subsequent recall

J Pediatr Psychol. 2010 Jul;35(6):626-36. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsp096. Epub 2009 Nov 4.


Objective: To examine whether children's experience of pain intensity and anxiety, and adult behaviors during venepuncture, were related to children's memories of the procedure.

Methods: Participants were 48 children (24 males, 24 females) between the ages of 5 and 10 years who underwent venepuncture. The venepunctures were videotaped and adult behaviors were coded. Children self-reported their pain intensity and anxiety immediately and 2 weeks following venepuncture and answered contextual questions at follow-up.

Results: Children who initially reported higher levels of pain tended to over-estimate their anxiety at follow-up, whereas children who reported lower levels of pain accurately- or under-estimated their anxiety. Staff coping-promoting behaviors predicted the accuracy of children's contextual memories. Staff and parent behaviors did not predict children's recalled pain intensity and anxiety.

Conclusions: Results indicate that children's direct experience of pain intensity and staff behaviors during venepuncture are related to their memories. These data highlight the importance of effective pain management during medical procedures.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Patients
  • Phlebotomy / psychology*
  • Regression Analysis