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It Doesn't Have to Hurt

Risk and resilience in children of parents with chronic pain

Parents with chronic pain

Chronic pain is a common health problem that tends to run in families. Past studies have shown that children whose parents have chronic pain are at risk for having pain and mental health problems themselves. However, little is known about which characteristics of parents and children predict which children will be at risk for these problems. In this study, we examined whether pain and mental health problems in children of parents with chronic pain might be predicted by parents’ pain interference (i.e., how much their pain interfered with their everyday activities) and parents’ and children’s negative thoughts and worries about pain. We also looked at how parents and children interacted during a painful experience for the child.

A total of 72 parent-child pairs participated in this study. We found that children tended to have more symptoms of anxiety and depression when their parents’ pain interfered more with everyday activities and the children had more negative thoughts about their own and their parent’s pain. However, these factors did not predict children having higher rates of chronic pain themselves. We found that during a laboratory pain task, when parents talked more about the child’s pain, children tended to talk more about their pain and report higher levels of pain. This study helped clarify how pain runs in families so that future research can work on developing prevention and treatment programs.

Please note that we are no longer looking for new families to participate in this study.

Parents with chronic pain


News and Media

Dissertation: Child outcomes in the context of parental chronic pain

April 23rd, 2019

Child outcomes in the context of parental chronic pain: Examining social transmission pathways Parents play a crucial role in children’s pain experiences. Theory and empirical studies have highlighted the association between parental chronic pain and children’s pain and mental health....

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PAIN: Testing the intergenerational model of transmission of risk for chronic pain from parents to their children

July 12th, 2019

Testing the intergenerational model of transmission of risk for chronic pain from parents to their children: An empirical investigation of social transmission pathways Abstract Children of parents with chronic pain have higher rates of pain and internalizing (eg, anxiety and...

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CTV Housecall

October 17th, 2016

CTV News Atlantic visited our lab for a segment about Kristen's research project and also featured Karen Smith, a patient advocate for chronic pain. Click here to watch CTV's Housecall! 

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How does parents’ chronic pain affect their children?

May 6th, 2016

"Parenting is a tough job. It’s hard enough when things are going well – imagine trying to parent while experiencing chronic pain." Kristen Higgins shares her research of a recently published systematic review on parenting with chronic pain in this...

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Research Team


Kristen Higgins

Principal Investigator & Trainee

Dalhousie University

Dr. Christine Chambers

Co-Principal Investigator & Supervisor

Dalhousie University & IWK Health Centre

Dr. Marsha Campbell-Yeo

Co-Investigator

Dalhousie University & IWK Health Centre

Dr. Alexander J. Clark

Co-Investigator

Dalhousie University & Nova Scotia Health Research Authority

Dr. Mary Lynch

Co-Investigator

Dalhousie University & Nova Scotia Health Research Authority

Dr. Natalie Rosen

Co-Investigator

Dalhousie University

Dr. Simon Sherry

Co-Investigator

Dalhousie University

Dr. Somayyeh Mohammadi

Former Post-doctoral Fellow

IWK Health Centre

Funding

IWK Health Centre
Centre for Pediatric Pain Research
Dalhousie University