Whether nature or nurture, a lot of who we become can be traced back to our parents. Genetically, we have traits that are inherited – eye color, skin tone, height. Socially, we also will pick up traits of those who raised us – gestures, like or dislike for certain foods, the way we pronounce words. According to research that was recently published in the journal Pain, there may also be a link between parents who suffer from chronic pain conditions and whether their children will also develop chronic pain.
Co-authors Amanda Stone and Anna Wilson agree that there has already been a previously established familial link for chronic pain, but there has yet to be any research performed to determine the “how” or “why.”
Stone and Wilson determined through their research that there were five possible factors that could impact how or why a child of a parent with chronic pain would develop the condition later in life.
Genetics: Previous research suggests that genetics are one of the highest risk factors for adults. If a parent has a chronic pain condition, it’s more likely that their child may inherit sensory or psychological components that are associated with chronic pain.
Early Neurobiological Development: If the mother has a chronic pain condition, this could affect the development of the baby’s nervous system while in utero. The study uses an example of the mother’s stress level during or after pregnancy affecting the baby’s nervous system.
Social Learning: Children frequently learn by watching their parents and other adults around them. Stone and Wilson suggest that children may pick up on “maladaptive pain behaviors” from their parents, which could include excessive worry about pain.
Parenting and Health Habits: Chronic pain can affect how a parent is able to interact with their child. Stone and Wilson suggest that chronic pain risk as an adult may be increased by the way the individual was parented as a child – permissive parenting, lack of consistency, or limited physical activity were all mentioned as examples.
Exposure to Stress: Chronic pain is inherently stressful and impacts many other environmental factors. Children who grow up in a household where chronic pain causes financial stress, for example, are at higher risk of developing chronic pain themselves.
Additionally, there is another recent study in Finland that suggested poor fitness and sedentary behavior could lead to childhood pain, which then frequently persists later in life. This poor fitness and sedentary behavior could possibly be a byproduct of a parent who experiences chronic pain and is not able to be as active with their child as they would like to be.
The team at The Pain Center understands how chronic pain not only affects the individuals with the condition, but their family and friends as well. For more information about how to manage your chronic pain with children, read our blog: Talking To Your Children About Your Chronic Pain, or speak to your Pain Center doctor at your next visit.
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The advice and information contained in this article is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or counter a physician’s advice or judgment. Please always consult your physician before taking any advice learned here or in any other educational medical material.