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Learning to show "it hurts!" : the role of developmental factors in predicting young children’s use of self-report scales for pain Job, Elizabeth Ann

Abstract

Research that can be used to improve pain assessment in clinical settings and inform management plans for children coping with pain is critical. The current study examines young children use of self-report scales for pain and describes the role of several developmental factors in predicting young children use of this scale. The factors considered were: numerical reasoning, language, overall cognitive development, and age. One hundred and six children, ages 3- to 6-years-old, were tested on their level of development regarding the factors listed above. Their ability to accurately use a standard faces pain scale was measured using a series of hypothetical vignettes depicting pain scenarios common in childhood. Results indicated that 5- and 6-year old children were significantly more accurate in their use of the self-report pain scale than 4-year-old children, who in turn were significantly more accurate in their use of the scale than 3-year old children. However, even the 6-year-olds demonstrated difficulty using the pain scale. Child age was the only factor to significantly predict children's accurate use of the pain scale. The results of this research highlight the pervasive over-estimation of young children abilities to use self-report pain scales and the need for screening tools and training tasks to be developed for use with the scales.

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