BACKGROUND: Children of chronic pain patients run greater risk for developing chronic pain themselves. Exposure to chronic pain of the parent might install cognitive (e.g., pain catastrophizing, interpretation and attentional bias) and affective (e.g., pain anxiety) vulnerability which increase the risk for the development of chronic pain complaints in offspring. This study examines whether pain-free offspring of parents with chronic pain complaints make more health-threatening interpretations and display a stronger pain-related attentional bias compared to the offspring of pain-free parents. We furthermore examined differences between both groups on pain catastrophizing, pain anxiety and somatic symptoms and explored the relations between parental pain catastrophizing and aforementioned pain vulnerability measures in offspring.
METHODS: Offspring of parents with chronic pain complaints (n = 24) and pain-free parents (n = 27) completed measures of attentional bias (i.e., pictorial dot probe), interpretation bias (i.e., ambiguous word association task), pain catastrophizing, pain anxiety and somatic symptoms. Parents completed measures of pain catastrophizing and psychological distress.
RESULTS: No differences between offspring of parents with and without pain complaints were observed on pain catastrophizing, pain anxiety and somatic symptoms. Both groups of healthy adolescents predominantly showed benign, non-health-threatening interpretations. Children of pain-free parents showed an attention bias for pain stimuli, while offspring of parents with pain complaints showed no such bias.
CONCLUSIONS: Future research is needed to further elucidate the precise role of parental pain in the development of pain-related biases and the significance of these biases in the onset and/or maintenance of a chronic pain condition in children and adolescents.
SIGNIFICANCE: Parental chronic pain may install psychological vulnerability for developing chronic pain and associated complaints in offspring. This study did not show differences in pain-directed attentional and interpretation bias between offspring of parents with chronic pain complaints and offspring of pain-free parents. Further (longitudinal) research is needed to elucidate the precise role of parental pain factors in the development of pain-related vulnerability in offspring of chronic pain parents, thereby identifying important targets for the prevention and early intervention of chronic pain.
- AMBIGUOUS INFORMATION
- Anxiety Disorders
- Attentional Bias
- CHILDRENS SOMATIZATION INVENTORY
- Chronic Pain
- DOT-PROBE TASK
- FUNCTIONAL ABDOMINAL-PAIN
- HOSPITAL ANXIETY
- Pain Measurement
- SOCIAL THREAT