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Pain. 2009 Mar;142(1-2):142-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pain.2008.12.028. Epub 2009 Jan 30.

The relationship between high catastrophizing children's facial display of pain and parental judgment of their child's pain.

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Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.


The present study investigated the effect of the child's pain catastrophizing and self-reported pain upon the child's facial expression of pain and parental inferences of their child's pain. School children (n=62) experienced pain by taking part in a cold water procedure. Analyses revealed that more intense pain was associated with higher levels of facial pain expression in children who reported a low frequency of catastrophizing. In children with high pain catastrophizing, this relationship was not significant. A similar pattern was obtained for the pain inferences by the parent: pain intensity as reported by the child was positively related to pain inferences by the parent in children who reported a low frequency of catastrophizing, but such relationship was not significant for children with high catastrophizers. Further analyses revealed that when pain intensity was low, parents of high catastrophizing children judged the pain of their child to be higher than parents of low catastrophizing children. The implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the importance of assessing different dimensions of pain encoded in expression, different types of pain expression, and its differential effects upon others.

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