Early memories of pain contribute to fear and may underlie the maintenance and development of chronic pain into adulthood. Accordingly, understanding determinants that may impact children’s pain memory development is key. This study examined (a) the effect of a brief engaging pain educational video in healthy children before undergoing an experimental pain task upon children’s recalled pain intensity and pain-related fear and (b) the moderating role of parental pain- and non-pain-attending verbalizations before and after the pain task.
Seventy-seven children (8–15 years old) participated in an experimental heat pain task, including actual heat pain stimuli delivered through a thermode on their forearm. Children were randomized to the experimental group (i.e., watching a pain educational video) or the control group (i.e., no video). Children’s recalled pain intensity and pain-related fear were elicited 2 weeks later.
Findings showed that recalled pain intensity (but not recalled pain-related fear) of children who watched the pain educational video was significantly lower compared to the control group (p = .028). Further, parental pain-attending verbalizations before the pain task moderated the impact of the video upon children’s recalled pain intensity (p = .038). Specifically, children in the control group, but not the experimental group, whose parents used less pain-attending verbalizations recalled higher pain intensity, whereas children whose parents used more pain-attending verbalizations recalled lower pain intensity.
As children’s pain memories have important implications for pain assessment, treatment, and health across the lifespan, these findings might have important implications for the prevention of development or maintenance of maladaptive pain-related outcomes.