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Parental attention to their child's pain is modulated by threat-value of pain

Vervoort T, Trost Z, Caes L, Notebaert L & Goubert L (2012) Parental attention to their child's pain is modulated by threat-value of pain. Health Psychology, 31 (5), pp. 623-631.

Objective: The present study investigated parental attention and sensitivity to their child's pain and the moderating role of child's facial pain expressiveness and induced threat. Methods: Sixty-two parents (49 mothers; 13 fathers) of schoolchildren observed their child undergoing painful and nonpainful heat trials and were requested to rate the presence of pain after each trial. Painful versus nonpainful trials were signaled by the presence of either a yellow or blue circle; one color served as a cue for possible pain delivery (i.e., conditioned pain cue), whereas the other served as a cue for a nonpainful trial. A subsequent visual search task (VST) assessed attention to pain cues by asking parents to identify a target presented within the conditioned pain cue or one of several other colored circles. Parents were randomly assigned to a "high threat" or "low threat" group in which either threatening or neutral information about the child's pain was provided. Results: Signal detection analyses indicated that parents' ability to detect pain (i.e., sensitivity) was enhanced for parents in the high-threat group and for parents whose children expressed high pain. Visual search analyses indicated attentional engagement to child pain only among parents in the high-threat group whose child showed high-pain expressiveness. In all other circumstances, a tendency to avoid pain cues was observed. Conclusions: These findings attest to the importance of pain-related threat in understanding parent attention to child pain. Theoretical and clinical implications and future research directions are discussed. © 2012 American Psychological Association.

Health Psychology: Volume 31, Issue 5

Author(s)Vervoort, Tine; Trost, Zina; Caes, Line; Notebaert, Lies; Goubert, Liesbet
Publication date30/11/2012
Publication date online13/08/2012
Date accepted by journal31/01/2012
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
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