Family influence in pediatric chronic pain and disability

Up to 15 per cent of school-aged children and adolescents suffer from chronic pain conditions such as recurrent headaches and abdominal pain. Children with chronic pain frequently miss considerable amounts of school, do not participate in athletic and social activities, and suffer depression or anxiety. The family plays an important role in influencing how children learn to deal with pain, but little is known about how this learning occurs. My research will identify how families influence children’s responses to pain. I will compare studies of children between the ages of eight and 15 with chronic pain and disability with pain-free children and their parents. The research will examine how families interpret pain symptoms, how parents make decisions about their children’s complaints of pain, parents’ thoughts about their children’s pain, and parent-child behaviour during pain episodes. In addition, I am studying how health care providers and parents assess pain in children and the tools that we use with children to measure pain. My research will also explore the relationship between sleep disturbances and chronic pain in children, an area of research that has been overlooked until now. The results of these research studies will help family members and health care providers better manage children’s pain, and will help improve treatment and prevention of disabling pain in children.