The relationship between developmental factors and the ability of children to accurately complete a self-report pain scale

Pain is a complex, subjective experience that cannot be measured directly. Self-report rating scales are commonly used to assess an individual’s pain experience, but with children, clinicians need to determine whether a child can accurately complete a scale. Little research has been done on methods to assess children’s accuracy in using these scales. As a MSFHR Masters Trainee, Elizabeth Stanford (Job) examined ways children use everyday language to describe pain. Now she is assessing young children’s ability to accurately convey their level of pain through methods that include pointing to a series of pain faces developed as a rating scale. The research will increase understanding of how developmental factors — such as language and numerical reasoning — influence children’s ability to accurately express pain with these scales, and ultimately lead to more effective pain assessment and treatment for children.