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Pain Research and Management
Volume 19 (2014), Issue 1, Pages 7-14
Original Article

Patient Versus Parental Perceptions about Pain and Disability in Children and Adolescents with a Variety of Chronic Pain Conditions

Thomas R Vetter,1 Cynthia L Bridgewater,2 Lee I Ascherman,1 Avi Madan-Swain,1 and Gerald L McGwin Jr1

1University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama, USA
2Children’s Hospital of Alabama, Birmingham, Alabama, USA

Copyright © 2014 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: Cross-informant variance is often observed in patient self-reports versus parent proxy reports of pediatric chronic pain and disability.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the relationship and merit of the child versus parent perspective.

METHODS: A total of 99 patients (eight to 17 years of age [mean 13.2 years]; 71% female, 81% Caucasian) and parents completed the Pediatric Pain Questionnaire and Functional Disability Inventory at their initial clinic visit. Patients’ and parents’ pain intensity and disability scores were analyzed using an intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC), Wilcoxon signed-rank test, Bland-Altman plot and Spearman’s correlation coefficient. The association between clinical/demographic variables and differences in patient/parent pain intensity and disability scores was assessed using multivariable regression.

RESULTS: There was significant agreement between patients’ self-reports and parents’ proxy reports of their child’s pain intensity (ICC=0.52; P<0.001) and disability (ICC=0.57; P=0.004) at the individual level. There were no significant group differences in patient versus parent-proxy pain intensity scores (P=0.40) and disability scores (P=0.54). The difference between patient and parent-proxy pain intensity was associated with patients’ self-reported pain intensity (P<0.001). The difference between patient and parent-proxy disability was associated with patient’s self-reported pain disability (P<0.001). Bland-Altman plots revealed major inter-rater variation in the Pediatric Pain Questionnaire and Functional Disability Inventory across their score ranges. A significant relationship (r=0.38; P<0.001) was observed between patients’ self-reported pain intensity and disability.

CONCLUSIONS: While equal merit should ideally be given to pediatric chronic pain patients’ self-reports and their parents’ proxy reports of pain intensity and disability, it would appear that, as needed, pediatric patients or parents can offer a clinically valid, single clinical perspective.