Social interactions can influence the experience and impact of chronic pain. Children and adolescents expectations of how others respond to them could therefore influence their adjustment to pain. This study examined how children and adolescents expected their peers and teachers would react to classmates with chronic pain.
211 school children participated in this study. We presented each participant 1 of 4 vignettes that described a boy or a girl who did or did not have chronic pain. Participants were then asked to describe how they think other children and their teachers would react to the child depicted in the vignette with respect to solicitous, discouraging, and coping responses.
Discouraging responses from peers and teachers were viewed as being relatively unlikely. However, both coping and solicitous responses—the latter being a response known to be linked to increased pain and disability in children and adults—were viewed by the participating children as being relatively likely. Moreover, the expected likelihood of solicitous responses from teachers was thought to be even more probable for children and adolescents with chronic pain than for those without chronic pain.
The results of this study have important practical implications, given the well-known importance of significant other’s responses to chronic pain problems. Further research is needed to understand how social interactions at school may influence functioning of children with chronic pain and their development. This information could provide an important empirical basis for determining how best to manage individuals wth chronic pain problems in the school setting.