Adult judgments of children's pain and fear during venipuncture: The impact of adult and child sex
Background: Low levels of agreement between caregiver and child reports of acute pain are well documented. Aims: This study builds on prior research through exploring factors that may contribute to low caregiver-child concordance. Specifically, the study examined the influence of adult and child sex on adult judgments of children's pain and fear during venipuncture and examined whether trait parental pain catastrophizing, empathy, and anxiety predicted judgment accuracy. Methods: Using a judgment study paradigm, 160 participants (82 women) viewed 20 10-s video clips of children (10 boys, 10 girls) undergoing venipuncture and rated each child's pain and fear. Adults' ratings were compared to the children's own ratings. Adults completed measures of trait parental pain catastrophizing, dispositional empathy, and trait anxiety. Results: Adults accurately judged boys' pain and fear significantly more often than that of girls. Further, adults underestimated and overestimated girls' pain and overestimated girls' fear significantly more frequently than that of boys. No effects of adult sex or adult by child sex interactions emerged. Parental pain catastrophizing significantly predicted underestimation of girls' pain, with adults who engaged in more catastrophizing being less likely to underestimate girls' pain. The variables did not predict adult judgment of child pain for women and men separately and did not predict adult judgment of child fear when examined by adult sex, child sex, or both combined. Conclusions: Child sex influences adult pain and fear judgments, with girls being more vulnerable to inaccurate assessment than boys. Higher levels of parental pain catastrophizing may buffer against adults' propensities to underestimate girls' pain.