What Hurts? A Pilot Study Investigating Nonverbal Characteristics of Parent Reassurance and Distraction and Child Pain Outcomes
Parent behaviours can impact a child’s pain experience during medical procedures; distraction associates with child coping, reassurance with negative child outcomes. To clarify these relations, this study examined if parents communicate fear during reassurance using the new Scheme for Understanding Parent Responses during Children’s Pain (SUPR-CP) which assesses parent nonverbal behaviours (e.g., facial expressions). Objectives were to: 1) examine relations between parent fear and reassurance, 2) assess if fearful and reassuring parents have children with more fear, 3) determine if parent fear predicted child fear, and 4) examine relations between parent trait mindfulness and catastrophizing, and child outcomes. Children aged 7 to 12 completed the Cold Pressor Task accompanied by their parent. Reassurance and distraction were identified using the Child-Adult Medical Procedure Interaction Scale. The SUPR-CP assessed parent fear. Children reported their pain and fear. Twenty-seven dyads participated. 1) Parent fear (SUPR-CP) was positively associated with reassurance (r=.49, 95% CI [.10, .75], p < .05). 2) Fearful and reassuring parents had children with more fear relative to children of other parents (t(21) = -1.98, 95% CI [-1.42, .30], p=.06). 3) Parent fear accounted for 21% of the variance in child fear. 4) Parent mindfulness was negatively related to child pain (r=-.34, 95% CI [-.64, .05], p=.08). Parental catastrophizing was not associated with child outcomes. In sum, parent fear associated with reassuring behaviours, and negatively associated with child pain and fear outcomes. Parent mindfulness associated with less child pain. Findings offer tentative evidence for fear as a mechanism behind the relation between reassurance and child outcomes.