The relationship between children's coping styles and psychological interventions for cold pressor pain

Pain. 1993 May;53(2):213-222. doi: 10.1016/0304-3959(93)90083-2.


This study examined the hypothesis that matching pain management interventions to children's preferred coping methods would increase pain tolerance and decrease self-reported pain during the cold pressor pain paradigm. Children aged 8-10 years were classified as 'attenders' (focusing on the stimulus) or 'distractors' (focusing away from the stimulus) based upon their spontaneous coping responses during a baseline exposure to the cold pressor. Children were then randomly assigned to 1 of 3 intervention conditions (sensory focusing, imagery, or no intervention) and completed the cold pressor procedure again 2 weeks later. A significant interaction was found between coping style and intervention. Children who were classified as distractors demonstrated greater tolerance when taught to use imagery techniques (a 'matched' intervention). Although pain ratings tended to be lower for distractors using imagery, the significant interaction resulted from an increase in ratings for the distractors using sensory focusing (i.e., a 'mismatched' intervention). Results suggest that, for distractors, interventions that are consistent with natural coping methods are most effective in enhancing abilities to cope with pain, while a mismatched intervention reduces coping abilities. The findings also suggest further study regarding how to provide effective pain intervention with attenders, since neither intervention enhanced coping in this group.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Attention
  • Child
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Management
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pressure