The influence of children's pain memories on subsequent pain experience

Pain. 2012 Aug;153(8):1563-1572. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2012.02.020. Epub 2012 May 3.


Healthy children are often required to repeatedly undergo painful medical procedures (eg, immunizations). Although memory is often implicated in children's reactions to future pain, there is a dearth of research directly examining the relationship between the 2. The current study investigated the influence of children's memories for a novel pain stimulus on their subsequent pain experience. One hundred ten healthy children (60 boys) between the ages of 8 and 12 years completed a laboratory pain task and provided pain ratings. Two weeks later, children provided pain ratings based on their memories as well as their expectancies about future pain. One month following the initial laboratory visit, children again completed the pain task and provided pain ratings. Results showed that children's memory of pain intensity was a better predictor of subsequent pain reporting than their actual initial reporting of pain intensity, and mediated the relationship between initial and subsequent pain reporting. Children who had negatively estimated pain memories developed expectations of greater pain prior to a subsequent pain experience and showed greater increases in pain ratings over time than children who had accurate or positively estimated pain memories. These findings highlight the influence of pain memories on healthy children's expectations of future pain and subsequent pain experiences and extend predictive models of subsequent pain reporting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Health
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Catastrophization / diagnosis
  • Catastrophization / epidemiology*
  • Catastrophization / psychology*
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors