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The role of developmental factors in predicting young children’s use of a self-report scale for pain

Publication year
Stanford, E. A.; Chambers, C. T.; Craig, K. D.

Accurate pain assessment is the foundation for effective pain management in children. At present, there is no clear consensus regarding the age at which young children are able to appropriately use self-report scales for pain. This study examined young children’s ability to use the Faces Pain Scale-Revised; (FPS-R; [Hicks CL, von Baeyer CL, Spafford PA, van Korlaar I, Goodenough B. The Faces Pain Scale-Revised: toward a common metric in pediatric pain measurement. Pain 2001; 93: 173-83]) for pain in response to vignettes and investigated the role of developmental factors in predicting their ability to use the scale. One hundred and twelve healthy children (3-6 years old) were assessed for their ability to accurately use a common faces scale to rate pain in hypothetical vignettes depicting pain scenarios common in childhood. Accuracy was determined by considering whether children’s judgements of pain severity matched the pain severity depicted in the various vignettes. Children were also administered measures of numerical reasoning, language, and overall cognitive development. Results indicated that 5- and 6-year-old children were significantly more accurate in their use of the FPS-R in response to the vignettes than 4-year-old children, who in turn were significantly more accurate than 3-year-old children. However, over half of the 6-year-olds demonstrated difficulties using the FPS-R in response to the vignettes. Child age was the only significant predictor of children’s ability to use the scale in response to the vignettes. Thus, a substantial number of young children experienced difficulties using the FPS-R when rating pain in hypothetical vignettes, although the ability to use the scale did improve with age.

Research abstracts