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Pain Research and Management
Volume 13, Issue 1, Pages 33-40
Original Article

Attachment Dimensions and Young Children’s Response to Pain

Trudi M Walsh,1 Patrick J McGrath,1 and Douglas K Symons2

1Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada
2Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: The present study examined the relationship between attachment dimensions and child pain behaviour following both an everyday pain incident (eg, bumps and scrapes) and acute pain incident (eg, immunization) in 66 five-year-old children.

METHODS: Secure, avoidant, ambivalent and controlling attachment dimensions were assessed using aggregates of laboratory-based reunion behaviour, performance on representational measures of attachment and the measure of emotion regulation. Child pain behaviour, during immunization and everyday pain incidents, was rated in terms of reactivity, anger and calming time.

RESULTS: The ambivalence and controlling attachment dimensions were differentially related to child pain behaviour. Specifically, children with either more ambivalent or controlling attachment had a relatively greater reaction to both the immunization procedure and everyday pain incident. Children with more controlling attachment also took more time to calm down following the immunization and displayed greater anger. Security and avoidance, however, were not systematically related to child pain behaviour.

CONCLUSIONS: Results are discussed in terms of Bowlby’s theory of attachment relationships and pain as an important distress signal to children.