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Pain Research and Management
Volume 16, Issue 3, Pages 178-182
Original Article

Fear-Avoidance Beliefs and Parental Responses to Pain in Adolescents with Chronic Pain

Anna C Wilson,1 Amy S Lewandowski,2 and Tonya M Palermo2

1Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA
2Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Copyright © 2011 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: The fear-avoidance model of chronic pain posits that fear of pain is associated with fear and avoidance of activity, which can lead to deconditioning and persistence of pain and disability. Despite being well supported in adults, little is known about the role of fear-avoidance beliefs regarding physical activity in children. Research has shown that parental protectiveness contributes to activity limitations in children; however, no studies have examined relationships between protectiveness, and fear and avoidance.

OBJECTIVES: To conduct a cross-sectional study to provide additional information regarding the reliability and validity of the Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire physical activity subscale among adolescents with chronic pain; examine fear-avoidance beliefs and depressive symptoms as concurrent predictors of physical activity limitations; and test competing models using fear-avoidance beliefs as mediators and moderators of the association between parental protectiveness and activity limitations.

METHODS: Adolescents (n=42) 11 to 17 years of age with chronic pain completed questionnaires assessing pain intensity, fear-avoidance beliefs, depressive symptoms and physical activity limitations. Their parents completed questionnaires regarding protectiveness and adolescent activity limitations.

RESULTS: The Fear-Avoidance Beliefs Questionnaire physical activity subscale was useful for assessing fear-avoidance beliefs in the present population. In support of hypotheses, greater fear-avoidance beliefs were associated with greater activity limitations, above pain intensity and depressive symptoms. Support was found for fear-avoidance beliefs as mediators of the association between parental protectiveness and activity limitations. Tests of moderation were not significant.

CONCLUSIONS: Fear-avoidance beliefs may be an important target for interventions focused on decreasing activity limitations in youth with chronic pain. Future research should investigate these associations longitudinally.