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Parenting Behaviors of Adults with Chronic Pain Influence Internalizing Symptoms in Children

3 April 2018


Background: Chronic pain is one of the most prevalent health conditions, affecting up to 30% of adults. Children of parents who have a chronic illness, including chronic pain, are at risk for poorer outcomes including health issues, pain-specific conditions, internalizing and externalizing symptoms, and poorer family functioning. Limited research has been conducted examining parent and child variables that influence mental health outcomes in healthy children whose parents have a chronic pain condition.

Aims: The current study has three aims: (1) to examine the associations of parent variables (mental health, pain status, and parenting behaviors) and child variables (child pain, child sex) on children’s mental health in the context of a parent with chronic pain; (2) to explore both the direct effects and indirect effects of parent chronic pain and maladaptive parenting behaviors on child mental health outcomes; (3) to explore both the direct effects and indirect effects of relevant child factors (sex and pain) and maladaptive parent behaviors on child mental health outcomes.

Methods: The study sample includes 137 parent and child dyads, including parents with chronic pain and their healthy children (n = 58) and parents without chronic pain and their healthy children (n = 79). Parents and children completed self-report questionnaires assessing pain characteristics, mental health symptoms, and pain-specific parent responses.

Results: Results indicated that children who identify as female, children who endorse higher rates of non-clinical pain, and parent catastrophizing behaviors contribute to increased symptoms of both anxiety and depression in children. Results did not support significant interaction effects, but significant main effects were seen for child sex, child non-clinical pain, parent pain, and pain-specific parent responses.

Conclusions: With regard to parenting with chronic pain, findings highlight the potential impact of specific parent and child variables that may influence child mental health in a sample of healthy children.


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