Canadian Journal of Pain
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Background: The social context is critical to children’s pain, and parents frequently form a major aspect of this context. We addressed several gaps in our understanding of parent–child interactions during painful procedures and identified intrapersonal contributions to parental affective responses and behaviors. We used the pain empathy model framework to examine parent–child interactions during venipuncture to determine predictors of parent distraction and reassurance. Aims: We examined relations among parent and child behaviors along with parent fear and child pain and fear. We empirically tested the contribution of top-down influences in predicting the use of two common parent utterances, reassurance and distraction during venipuncture, including parent beliefs about these behaviors. Methods: Venipunctures of 100 5- to 10-year-old children were filmed, and parent–child interactions were coded using the full 35 item Child Adult Medical Procedure Interaction Scale. Two codes were of particular interest: reassurance and distraction. Self-report measures included child fear and pain, parent fear, trait anxiety, empathy, pain catastrophizing, and beliefs about reassurance and distraction. Results: Findings supported original Child–Adult Medical Procedure Interaction Scale codes linking parent “distress-promoting” behaviors with poorer child outcomes and parent “coping-promoting” behaviors with improved child outcomes. Parent traits accounted for a small portion of the variance in parent reassurance and distraction. Conclusions: Findings are consistent with research on coping and distress promoting behaviors. Using a novel framework of the pain empathy model, we found that parent traits largely did not predict their procedural behaviors, which were more strongly related to child distress behaviors during the needle and parent beliefs about the behaviors.