Adverse childhood experiences in parents of youth with chronic pain: prevalence and comparison with a community-based sample

Pain Rep. 2020 Oct 27;5(6):e866. doi: 10.1097/PR9.0000000000000866. eCollection 2020 Nov-Dec.


Introduction: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are common occurrences that are related to poor health outcomes, including chronic pain, in youth and adults. Research suggests that children of parents exposed to ACEs are also at risk of poor outcomes. However, little is known about the risk that ACEs confer for chronic pain across generations. Parent ACEs may play an important role in pediatric chronic pain, given their association with key parent factors (eg, mental and physical health).

Objectives: This study evaluated the prevalence of ACEs in parents of youth with chronic pain and compared these rates to a community-based sample.

Methods: One hundred seventy parents of youth (aged 10-18 years) with chronic pain, recruited from a tertiary-level chronic pain program at a pediatric hospital in Canada, completed a self-report measure of ACEs. A comparison sample (n = 3914) was drawn from a local, community-based study that examined ACEs among adults in primary care.

Results: Among parents of youth with chronic pain, 67.6% reported ≥1 ACE and 23.5% reported ≥4 ACEs. Controlling for sociodemographic factors, ACEs were similar across samples, except parents of youth with chronic pain reported significantly higher rates of physical neglect (odds ratio = 2.14; 95% confidence interval = 1.35-3.40) than the community-based sample.

Conclusion: Adverse childhood experiences are prevalent among parents of youth with chronic pain, with physical neglect reported more frequently than the community-based sample. Further research that examines the association between parent ACEs and child chronic pain, as well as neurobiological and psychosocial factors that may mediate this potential relation, is needed.

Keywords: ACEs; Childhood maltreatment; Chronic pain; Household dysfunction; Intergenerational; Pediatric pain.