Parental Responses to Pain in High Catastrophizing Children: The Moderating Effect of Child Attachment

  • Tine Vervoort
    Address reprint requests to Tine Vervoort, Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Henri Dunantlaan 2, B- 9000 Ghent, Belgium.
    Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

    Research Institute for Psychology & Health, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Liesbet Goubert
    Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

    Research Institute for Psychology & Health, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Geert Crombez
    Department of Experimental-Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

    Research Institute for Psychology & Health, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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      Studies in adults have shown that the effects of pain catastrophizing upon others vary from positive to negative responses. There are no studies, however, on the impact of catastrophizing in children upon responses of others. In addition, little is known about why catastrohpizing varies with both positive and negative responses. Attachment may be one important moderator explaining these variable relationships. The present study in 1,332 school children investigated, by means of child-report questionnaires, the relationships between pain catastrophizing and parental responses to pain, and the moderating role of child attachment. Findings indicated that a child's pain catastrophizing had a small but significant positive contribution in explaining child reports of both positive and negative parental responses to pain. However, this relationship was moderated by child attachment; for less securely attached children, higher levels of catastrophizing were associated with more negative parental responses. On the contrary, for more securely attached children, higher levels of catastrophizing were associated with more positive parental responses. The present findings suggest that child attachment may partially explain the variable results regarding the impact of pain catastrophizing upon others' responses. The findings are discussed in terms of the function of pain catastrophizing in interactional processes between parents and children.


      This study in schoolchildren found preliminary evidence for the moderating impact of child attachment in understanding differential patterns of parental responses related to the child's pain catastrophizing. Further exploration of the mechanisms relating catastrophizing and attachment processes might contribute to a better comprehension of the interpersonal nature of pain catastrophizing.

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