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Pain. 2019 Mar 21. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001565. [Epub ahead of print]

The role of narrative in the development of children's pain memories: influences of father- and mother-child reminiscing on children's recall of pain.

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Department of Psychology, University of Calgary Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute Hotchkiss Brain Institute.
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary.
Department of Psychology and Centre for Pain Research, University of Bath.
Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management and Perioperative Medicine, Dalhousie University.
Section of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary.
Section of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary.
Owerko Centre and Department of Psychology, Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary,University of Calgary.


Negatively biased memories for pain (i.e., recalled pain is higher than initial report) robustly predict future pain experiences. During early childhood, parent-child reminiscing has been posited as playing a critical role in how children's memories are constructed and reconstructed; however, this has not been empirically demonstrated. This study examined the role of parent-child reminiscing about a recent painful surgery in young children's pain memory development. Participants included 112 children (Mage=5.3 years; 60% boys) who underwent a tonsillectomy and one of their parents (34% fathers). Pain was assessed in hospital and during the recovery phase at home. Two weeks post-surgery, parents and children attended a lab visit to participate in a structured narrative elicitation task wherein they reminisced about the surgery. Four weeks post-surgery, children completed an established pain memory interview using the same previously administered scales via telephone. Narratives were coded for style (elaboration) and content (pain, emotion) based on coding schemes drawn from the developmental psychology literature. Findings revealed that a more elaborative parental reminiscing style in addition to greater use of emotional words predicted more accurate/positively biased pain memories. Greater parental use of pain words predicted more negatively biased pain memories. Although there were no sex and parent-role differences in pain memory biases, mothers and fathers differed in how they reminisced with their boys versus girls. This research underscores the importance of parent-child reminiscing in children's pain memory development and may be used to inform the development of a parent-led memory reframing intervention to improve pediatric pain management.

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