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Chronic Pain in Young Adults Associated with Parental Suffering: Study

Update Date: Nov 20, 2012 08:20 AM EST

A new study suggests that adolescents whose parents have chronic pain may also be a victim of chronic nonspecific pain and chronic multisite pain, which can cause disabilities and difficulties in life for them.

The cause of chronic nonspecific pain has still not been understood clearly by researchers.

In the current study, researchers Gry B. Hoftun, M.D., of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, and colleagues examined a possible link between parental chronic pain and chronic pain in young adults.

Researchers also studied if socioeconomic and psychosocial factors could explain any relationship, or whether it would be affected by differences in the family structure, Medical Xpress reported.

The researchers studied 5,370 adolescents or young adults (aged between 13 and 18 years). Either one or both parents of the teenagers participated in a survey.

"This study showed that both maternal chronic pain and paternal chronic pain are associated with chronic nonspecific pain and especially with chronic multisite pain in adolescents and young adults. Moreover, we found a substantial increase in pain among offspring for whom both parents reported chronic pain," the authors note.

While a mother suffering from chronic pain was associated with chronic nonspecific pain and chronic multisite pain in adolescents and young adults, paternal chronic pain was associated with increased odds of pain in the children.

The study reveals that the odds of chronic nonspecific pain and chronic multisite pain in teenaged children increased when both parents reported pain. However, the differences in family structure affected the findings of the study.

Apparently, adolescents who lived primarily with their mothers (who suffered chronic pain) were more likely to suffer chronic nonspecific pain and chronic multisite pain. But no such specific link could be established for paternal pain.

"In summary, parental chronic pain is associated with adolescent and young adult chronic nonspecific pain and especially chronic multisite pain and suggests a strong relationship between chronic pain in the parent and offspring living together, indicating that family pain models and shared environmental factors are important in the origin of chronic pain," the authors conclude.

In an editorial, Tonya M. Palermo, Ph.D., and Amy Lewandowski Holley, Ph.D., of the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, Washington, write: "A key question pertinent to the study by Hoftun and colleagues concerns the level of pain-related functional impairment experienced by adolescents (and parents) in the sample. Pain and disability can vary considerably among children with pain, and, therefore, the assessment of functional impairment is important in order to define the severity and impact of pediatric chronic pain."

"A focus on the development of family and parent interventions for youths with chronic pain should be a research priority. To date, there has been limited development of intervention content directed at other aspects of the family environment, such as parent modeling or family conflict," the authors continue.

"Based on the findings of Hoftun and colleagues, the development and testing of interventions that provide instruction to parents in modifying their own response to their chronic pain (e.g., modeling) will be an important next step," they conclude.

The study was published Online First by Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

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