Study Finds Overprotective Parents Play a Key Role in Children’s Sickle Cell Disease Outcomes

Children with sickle cell disease (SCD) whose parents reported catastrophizing and protective parenting behaviors were at an increased risk for severe functional disability, according to research presented at the 35th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Pain Society. However, researchers found that protective parenting was not associated with a higher disability risk when parents reported low levels of catastrophizing.

“Pain catastrophizing is poorly understood in children and adolescents with SCD and their parents,” the authors, led by Soumitri Sil, PhD, wrote, but results from this study show that “clinicians treating youth with SCD should focus on targeting worried thinking about pain from patients and parents to facilitate improved function.”

The study included 40 adolescents (mean age = 14 years) who had chronic pain related to SCD (defined as pain occurring ≥3 days a week and persisting for ≥3 months). Patients completed the Functional Disability Inventory to measure pain and disability levels, while parents completed the Pain Catastrophizing Scale to assess parenting behaviors in response to pain.

The results indicated a significant two-way interaction between protective parenting and parent catastrophizing in predicting higher pain intensity, pain frequency, and adolescent disability (p<0.01). Overprotective parenting, the authors noted, can include rearranging activities, anticipating a child’s needs, completing tasks for them, and allowing them to stay home from school and restrict social activities, in an effort to manage or lessen children’s pain.

“Youth with low levels of catastrophizing demonstrated high levels of disability in the presence of high levels of parent catastrophizing,” Dr. Sil and colleagues observed. The researchers stressed the importance of providing young SCD patients the opportunities to learn how to effectively deal with chronic pain, while continuing to engage in activities that are important for their overall quality of life.

Source: Sil S, Dampier C, Cohen LL. Parent and child catastrophizing in pediatric sickle cell disease. Abstract #154. Presented at the American Pain Society 35th Annual Scientific Meeting, May 31, 2016; Austin, TX.