The (Parental) Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts: A Multifactorial Model of Parent Factors in Pediatric Chronic Pain

Published:January 15, 2019DOI:


      • A model in which parent factors contributed to child pain and function was tested.
      • Parent factors included chronic pain, psychological, behavioral, and physical items.
      • The model was supported with the exception of parent behavioral responses to child pain.
      • Parents’ own pain and functioning should be assessed and addressed in treatment.


      Parents play a critical role in children's experience of, and recovery from, chronic pain. Although several parental factors have been linked to child pain and functioning, these factors are typically examined in isolation or as moderators or mediators. Structural equation modeling affords the opportunity to examine the extent to which parental factors are interrelated, and if there are differential associations among parental factors and child outcomes. Based on extant literature, a unified model of parental factors, including chronic pain status, physical functioning, responses to child pain, and psychological factors, and their effect on child pain and functioning, was conceptualized. This model was evaluated using structural equation modeling based on data from 146 dyads recruited from a multidisciplinary pain clinic. Modifications to model iterations were made based on theoretical and statistical justification. The final model revealed associations among all parental factors, with significant loadings on child pain and functioning. Findings indicated the conceptual model was supported, with the exception of parent responses to child pain. Findings support the inclusion of parent chronic pain status and physical and psychological functioning as part of a comprehensive assessment of youth with chronic pain and may inform new parental intervention targets to improve child outcomes.


      A unified structural equation model indicated parents’ own chronic pain characteristics and physical and psychological functioning represent important factors associated with child pain and functioning. Current family-based interventions that often primarily focus on parent responses to child pain may need to be adapted to more comprehensively address parental factors.


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