Parents who suffer from chronic pain are more likely to have children with chronic pain, according to a new study that suggests that family life plays an important role in pediatric pain.
Norwegian researchers surveyed over five thousand teenagers (ages 13 to 18 years) and their parents to examine the relationship between parental and child pain. They also investigated socioeconomic and psychosocial factors, as well as differences in family structure.
The teens were asked if they had experienced any pain, unrelated to any known disease or injury, during the past 3 months. They were also asked to specify the location and frequency of the pain. Chronic nonspecific pain was defined as pain in at least one location, while chronic multi-site pain was pain in at least three locations.
Parents were asked if they had chronic pain that lasted more than 6 months and to rate the severity of the pain.
“This study showed that both maternal chronic pain and paternal chronic pain are associated with chronic nonspecific pain and especially with chronic multi-site pain in adolescents and young adults,” said lead author Gry Hoftun, MD, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “We found a substantial increase in pain among offspring for whom both parents reported chronic pain.”
Adjusting for socioeconomic and psychosocial factors did not change the results, but differences in family structure did. The prevalence of pain was lower among children living with both parents.
In teens that lived primarily with their mothers, maternal chronic pain was associated with increased odds of chronic nonspecific pain and chronic multi-site pain in children. There was no clear association with paternal pain for children who lived primarily with their mothers.
In teens who lived with their fathers, maternal chronic pain and paternal chronic pain were both associated with pain in offspring.
“These findings illustrate the importance of parental and family involvement in the management of adolescent and young adult chronic pain. Future longitudinal studies are needed to establish the causal relationship between parental and offspring chronic pain,” the authors concluded.
Their findings are published online in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, a JAMA Network publication. Previous studies on parental and child pain have shown conflicting results, suggesting that pediatric pain may have a genetic component or may even be a learned behavior.