Pain disorders tend to run in families, and children of individuals with chronic pain have been found to report lower functioning. Drawing upon a social learning perspective, the current study examined how diverse maternal pain coping responses (ie, pain catastrophizing and distraction) may, via corresponding child pain coping responses, act as a vulnerability or protective factor for child functioning in the context of parental chronic pain (CP).
A cross-sectional study was conducted in mothers with CP and their pain-free child (N=100) and mothers without CP and their pain-free child (N=74). Moderated mediation analyses were performed to test whether associations between maternal coping responses and child functioning (ie, somatic symptoms, physical functioning, and psychosocial health) were mediated by corresponding child coping responses and whether these associations were moderated by the presence or absence of maternal CP.
Maternal pain catastrophizing was indirectly related to more somatic symptoms, lower physical functioning, and lower psychosocial health in their child via child pain catastrophizing. Relationships were moderated by the presence or absence of maternal CP, such that mediated relationships were only found in mothers without CP and their child. No (in)direct relationships between maternal distraction, child distraction, and child functioning were observed.
The current findings demonstrated that child functioning was associated with maternal and child pain catastrophizing, but only in children of mothers without CP. No evidence was found in support of maternal pain coping responses as vulnerability or protective factors in the context of parental CP.