A linguistic analysis of future narratives in adolescents with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and their pain-free peers.

Emy Nimbley, Line Caes, Abbie Jones, Emma Fisher, Melanie Noel, Abbie Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition
that often develops after injury, with a typical onset in adolescence. The impact of
chronic pain is far-reaching, with many adolescents reporting atypical developmental
trajectories compared with peers. Social Comparison Theory offers a framework for
understanding how such comparisons influence wellbeing, whereby a heightened
sense of disparity places adolescents at risk of poor cognitive, affective and social
outcomes. Using a novel linguistic analysis programme, this study aims to investigate
cognitive, affective and social language used by adolescents with CRPS in comparison
to their peers during a task reflecting on their futures.
Methods. A story completion task was completed by adolescents with CPRS (n=49)
and adolescents without pain (n=48). This task involved asking adolescents to describe
their imagined future. Narratives were analysed using a novel linguistic analysis
programme, focusing on the cognitive, affective and social dimensions.
Results. Findings revealed significant group differences in how adolescents with
CRPS described their imagined futures. Adolescents with CRPS used significantly
fewer positive affect and more negative affect, anger and sadness words, and greater
insight and discrepancy words. No significant groups differences were found for social
Conclusions. Substantial differences in cognitive and affective words were found
between adolescents with and without CRPS. Findings provide novel insights into
current understandings of cognitive, affective and social processes in adolescents
living with chronic pain, particularly with regard to adolescent developmental
trajectories, and may in turn highlight potential targets in psychosocial interventions for
adolescents living with chronic pain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Pain
Early online date1 Dec 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Dec 2020

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