Parental psychological flexibility, catastrophizing, and parents’ goals regarding their child in pain: a diary study

  • C. Van Gampelaere
  • L. Caes
  • T. Vervoort
  • L. Goubert


Background: Protective parenting, aimed at reducing child pain, is shown to be associated with worse pain-related outcomes. To further our knowledge, it is useful to study parental behaviour within a context of multiple, possibly competing, goals. Specifically, parents may try to reconcile goals related to child pain reduction with other child-related goals (e.g., school functioning). This study investigates different goals parents hold regarding their child in pain, and examines the role of psychological flexibility (PF) and catastrophic thinking (CT) in persistently prioritizing pain reduction over other goals. Method: Participants were 32 parents of children (9-16 years) suffering from chronic abdominal pain or headache, recruited through two hospitals (Ghent, Belgium). The PPFQ questionnaire was administered and goals were generated during a home visit. Subsequently, parents were asked to complete a daily diary (21 days), assessing child pain intensity, parental CT, parental goals for child pain reduction and child activity engagement, and the importance of pain goals versus other goals. Findings: Results showed that pain intensity was associated with stronger parental focus upon pain reduction but, unexpectedly, also with a stronger tendency to encourage child activity engagement. Parents reporting more CT evidenced a higher focus upon pain reduction, and attached greater importance to pain control. Parents reporting higher levels of PF attached less importance to child pain control and also to other child-related goals. Discussion: Findings highlight the importance of parental CT, PF and pain intensity in explaining parental goal pursuit in the context of paediatric chronic pain.