During the past months, several COPS members have successfully defended their PhD! Congrats to Katleen Vandist, Elke Van Lierde, Charlotte Muscarella and Bart Aben!
Pain disorders tend to run in families, and children of individuals with chronic pain have been found to report lower functioning. Drawing upon a social learning perspective, the current study examined how diverse maternal pain coping responses (ie, pain catastrophizing and distraction) may, via corresponding child pain coping responses, act as a vulnerability or protective factor for child functioning in the context of parental chronic pain (CP). A cross-sectional study was conducted in mothers with CP and their pain-free child (N=100) and mothers without CP and their pain-free child (N=74). Moderated mediation analyses were performed to test whether associations between maternal coping responses and child functioning (ie, somatic symptoms, physical functioning, and psychosocial health) were mediated by corresponding child coping responses and whether these associations were moderated by the presence or absence of maternal CP. Maternal pain catastrophizing was indirectly related to more somatic symptoms, lower physical functioning, and lower psychosocial health in their child via child pain catastrophizing. Relationships were moderated by the presence or absence of maternal CP, such that mediated relationships were only found in mothers without CP and their child. No (in)direct relationships between maternal distraction, child distraction, and child functioning were observed. The current findings demonstrated that child functioning was associated with maternal and child pain catastrophizing, but only in children of mothers without CP. No evidence was found in support of maternal pain coping responses as vulnerability or protective factors in the context of parental CP.
Van Lierde, E., Goubert, L., Lammens, T., Ben Brahim, L., Van den Bussche, E., & Vervoort, T. (2020). The Interplay of Parent and Child Coping Responses in Understanding Child Functioning in the Context of Living With a Parent With or Without Chronic Pain. Clinical Journal Of Pain, 36(4), 238-248. doi:10.1097/AJP.0000000000000801
Children of individuals with chronic pain have an increased vulnerability to experience pain problems, possibly through observation of pain in their parents. As pain‐related fear (PRF) is a critical factor in the development and maintenance of chronic pain, the current experimental study examined the acquisition of PRF through observational learning and subsequent extinction after first‐hand experience of the feared stimulus. Healthy children (8–16 years) observed either their mother or a stranger performing two cold pressor tasks (CPT) filled with coloured water. In a differential conditioning procedure, one colour (CS+) was combined with genuine painful facial expressions and the other colour (CS−) with neutral facial expressions. Following this observation phase, children performed both CPTs (10°C) themselves. Children expected the CS+ to be more painful than the CS− and they reported being more afraid and hesitant to immerse in the CS+ compared to the CS−. Moreover, this fear was reflected in children’s level of arousal in anticipation of CPT performance. This learned association extinguished after performing both CPTs. Effects were not moderated by whether the child observed their mother or a stranger, by the child’s pain catastrophizing, trait PRF or trait anxiety. Remarkably, learning effects increased when the child perceived a larger difference between the model’s painful and neutral facial expressions. This study provides evidence for observational learning of PRF and subsequent extinction in schoolchildren. This acquisition of PRF by observing parental pain may contribute to vulnerabilities in children of parents with chronic pain.
Children may acquire pain‐related fear by observing pain in others and this learned fear can diminish after first‐hand experience. Remarkably, observational learning did not depend on the children’s relationship with the model, but it did depend on the intensity of pain that is perceived. A better understanding of the impact of observing (parental) pain may help clarify the intergenerational transmission of risk for pain and inform the development of preventive programs.
Van Lierde, E., Goubert, L., Vervoort, T., Hughes, G., & Van den Bussche, E. (2019). Learning to fear pain after observing another’s pain: An experimental study in schoolchildren. European Journal Of Pain, 24, 791-806. doi:10.1002/ejp.1529