Parental catastrophizing about child's pain and its relationship with activity restriction: the mediating role of parental distress

Pain. 2011 Jan;152(1):212-222. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2010.10.037. Epub 2010 Dec 3.


Recent research has demonstrated that parental behaviors have an important impact upon child and adolescent pain outcomes. At present, however, we do not know which parents engage in particular behaviors and why. In 2 studies, the impact of parental catastrophizing about their child's pain upon parental tendency to stop their child's pain-inducing activity was investigated. Further, the mediating role of parental distress was explored. In study 1, a sample of schoolchildren (n=62; M=12.48 years; SD=1.72) took part in a cold-pressor task. In study 2, a clinical sample of adolescents with chronic pain (n=36; M=15.68 years; SD=1.85) performed a 2-min walking task designed as a pain-inducing activity. In both studies, the accompanying parent was asked to watch their child performing the pain task. Findings revealed, for both studies, that parents with a high level of catastrophic thinking about their child's pain experienced more distress and a greater behavioral tendency of wanting to stop their child's pain-inducing activity. Further, parental feelings of distress mediated the relationship between parental catastrophic thinking and parents' tendency to restrict their child's activity. The findings are discussed in light of an affective-motivational conceptualization of pain and pain behavior. Parental catastrophizing was associated with parental tendency to restrict their child's engagement in a painful test, and this relationship was mediated by parental distress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Catastrophization / etiology
  • Catastrophization / psychology*
  • Catastrophization / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Negotiating / methods*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pressure / adverse effects
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / rehabilitation