The interplay of parent and adolescent catastrophizing and its impact on adolescents' pain, functioning, and pain behavior

Clin J Pain. 2013 Aug;29(8):681-8. doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e3182757720.


Objectives: Catastrophizing is a coping style linked to poorer patient outcomes. Little attention has focused on the parent-adolescent dyad and catastrophizing as a shared coping style. The purpose of this study was to: (1) examine the effects of adolescent and parent pain catastrophizing on adolescent functioning and (2) explore concordance in catastrophizing in parent-adolescent dyads, with equal interest in outcomes of dyads with discordant coping styles.

Methods: Pain intensity, catastrophizing, depressive symptoms, quality of life, and pain behaviors were assessed in adolescents (ages 11 to 17) presenting to a pediatric chronic pain clinic (N=240).

Results: Significant correlations between (1) parent and adolescent catastrophizing; (2) catastrophizing and pain behaviors; and (3) catastrophizing and adolescent outcomes were found. Parents and adolescents were classified into concordant or discordant dyads based on catastrophizing with a majority of dyads (>70%) showing concordant coping styles. Among discordant dyads, functional disability and depressive symptoms were significantly higher in a dyad with a high catastrophizing adolescent and low catastrophizing parent.

Discussion: Results provide further support for catastrophizing being a maladaptive coping strategy for adolescents with pain and their parents. Greater adolescent catastrophizing was related to increased pain behaviors and poorer adolescent functioning. Parent catastrophizing also seems related to poorer adolescent outcomes, and most parent-adolescent dyads showed concordance in use of catastrophizing, which may suggest a shared tendency for adaptive or maladaptive styles of coping with pain. Future research should investigate pain coping at a dyadic or family level to explore how family coping styles magnify distress and disability or buffer adolescents from such problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Catastrophization / psychology*
  • Child
  • Depression / etiology
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires