Parent-Child Reminiscing in the Context of Procedural and Postsurgical Pediatric Pain

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Objective. Children experience pain often and remember it long after painful experiences are over. Up to 25% of children remember past pain in a negatively-biased way (i.e., recalling higher levels of pain as compared to the initial pain reports) and are at risk of experiencing higher levels of pain in the future. Pain memories are malleable and can be reframed through conversations. Recent evidence demonstrated that the way parents reminisce about past pain with their children influenced how children remembered their past pain. Yet, no interventions have used parental reminiscing to change children’s memories for pain. The present dissertation aimed to develop a parent-led memory-reframing intervention that harnesses parent-child reminiscing about past pain and to examine the intervention’s efficacy to change children’s memories for pain. Methods. Three randomized controlled trials investigated whether parents can be taught to reminisce about past pain optimally to, in turn, change children’s memories for pain to be more accurate/positively-biased (i.e., recalling lower levels of pain compared to the initial reports). Additionally, the dissertation examined whether optimal parent-child reminiscing would result in lower levels of future needle pain. Parental beliefs regarding reminiscing about past pain were investigated to optimize the intervention and increase parental motivation to engage in reminiscing about past pain. Results. The parent-led memory-reframing intervention resulted in young children remembering their past post-surgical, but not needle, pain in a more accurate/positively-biased way. The intervention also changed parental reminiscing style to include optimal strategies for reframing past painful experiences. Parents rated the intervention to be feasible and highly acceptable in the context of post-surgical and needle pain. Results also demonstrated that some parental beliefs regarding reminiscing about past painful experiences may be a barrier that prevents parents from engaging in reminiscing about past pain. Conclusions. This dissertation developed and examined the efficacy of a parent-led memory-reframing intervention, a new avenue in pediatric pain management that targets children’s pain memories. The intervention was efficacious in changing how children remember their past post-surgical pain. The preliminary results warrant future large-scale trials to further examine the intervention’s potential to change children’s pain and health trajectories.
pediatric pain, parent-child reminiscing, memory for pain, memory for fear, children, parents
Pavlova, M. (2023). Parent-child reminiscing in the context of procedural and postsurgical pediatric pain (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from