Agreement between child and parent reports of pain

C T Chambers, G J Reid, K D Craig, P J McGrath, G A Finley
Clinical Journal of Pain 1998, 14 (4): 336-42

OBJECTIVE: Parents are often the primary source of information regarding their children's pain in both research and clinical practice. However, parent-child agreement on pain ratings has not been well established. The objective of the present study was to examine agreement between child- and parent-rated pain following minor surgery.

SETTING: Tertiary care children's hospital.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 110 children (56.4% male) aged 7-12 years undergoing surgery and their parents.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Parents and children independently rated pain intensity by using a 7-point Faces Pain Scale on the day of the child's surgery and the following 2 days.

RESULTS: Correlations (both Pearson's and intraclass correlation coefficients) indicated a highly significant relationship between child and parent ratings. However, kappa statistics indicated only poor to fair agreement beyond chance. Parents tended to underestimate their children's pain on the day of surgery and the following day, but not on the second day following surgery. When children's and parents' pain ratings for each of the 3 days were collapsed into a no-pain/low-pain group or a clinically significant pain group, kappa statistics indicated fair to good agreement. Parents demonstrated low levels of sensitivity in identifying when their children were experiencing clinically significant pain.

CONCLUSIONS: Correlations between parent and child pain reports do not accurately represent the relationship between these ratings and in fact overestimate the strength of the relationship. Parents' underestimation of their child's pain may contribute to inadequate pain control.

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