Perceived Injustice Is Associated With Pain and Functional Outcomes in Children and Adolescents With Chronic Pain: A Preliminary Examination

J Pain. 2016 Nov;17(11):1217-1226. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2016.08.002. Epub 2016 Aug 20.


Chronic pain is prevalent in children/adolescents and contributes to high rates of healthcare utilization. Research suggests injustice perceptions about pain are important in adult patients and a possible treatment focus. We conducted a preliminary evaluation of the psychometric properties of the Injustice Experiences Questionnaire (IEQ) and the relationship between injustice perceptions, pain, and functioning in chronic pain patients (N = 139, mean age = 15 years, 72% female) presenting to a pediatric pain clinic. Patients completed measures assessing pain intensity, injustice perceptions about pain, catastrophizing, overall functional disability, emotional functioning, social functioning, and school functioning. The IEQ showed good reliability and validity. Higher levels of perceived injustice were associated with higher levels of pain intensity, catastrophizing, and functional disability, and with poorer emotional, social, and school functioning. Additionally, perceived injustice remained significantly associated with pain intensity, functional disability, emotional functioning, social functioning, and school functioning after accounting for relevant demographic and clinical factors. This is the first study to suggest that injustice perceptions are important in the experience of pediatric chronic pain patients. Future studies should more thoroughly examine the psychometric properties of the IEQ in children/adolescents and elucidate the causal nature of these relationships, which will inform treatment efforts to improve pediatric pain care.

Perspective: This initial investigation suggests that injustice perceptions about pain can be reliably and validly measured and are tied to important clinical outcomes in children/adolescents. Future studies that replicate and extend these preliminary results are necessary to determine the extent to which injustice perceptions are an important target for intervention.

Keywords: Injustice; adolescents; children; chronic pain; functioning.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Catastrophization / psychology*
  • Chronic Pain / physiopathology*
  • Chronic Pain / psychology*
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Perception / physiology*
  • Psychometrics
  • Self Report
  • Social Justice*