Accuracy of children’s and parent’s memory for a novel painful experience
Pillai Riddell, Rebecca
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BACKGROUND: Despite recent progress in understanding memory of pain in adults, the validity of the assumption that these findings extend to children has not been established. Because treatment often is evaluated on the basis of pain recall, it is crucial that the accuracy of pain memories in children be established. OBJECTIVES: To examine children’s ability to recall pain intensity and contextual details associated with a novel painful experience. Furthermore, children’s memories were compared with those of their parents. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Twenty-three parent-child dyads were recruited from a sample participating in an earlier study investigating children’s responses to the cold pressor test and parents’ characterization of the children’s responses. Children (age five to 12 years) and parents independently had rated the child’s pain using a seven-point Faces Pain Scale. Approximately one year later, they were asked to recall the experience and rate the pain again. Memory for contextual details associated with the event also was assessed through a series of open-ended questions. RESULTS: A 2 (rater) × 2 (time period) repeated measures ANOVA examined the reliability of ratings and differences between parent and child ratings of pain, both recorded at the time of the cold pressor and recalled one year later. There were no significant differences in ratings over time or between parent and child. CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate that children’s memories of a novel painful experience can be consistent over a long interval. Moreover, parents’ ratings also reflect good recall and can be in agreement with those of their children.