Socialization of Pain Memories: Parent-Child Reminiscing About Past Painful and Sad Events

Maria Pavlova, Susan Graham, Abbie Jordan, Jill Chorney, Jillian Vinall, Nivez Rasic, James Brookes, Monika Hoy, Warren Yunker, Melanie Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)
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OBJECTIVE: Parent-child reminiscing about past negative events has been linked to a host of developmental outcomes. Previous research has identified two distinct between-parent reminiscing styles, wherein parents who are more elaborative (vs. repetitive) have children with more optimal outcomes. To date, however, research has not examined how parents and children talk about past painful experiences nor compared parent-child reminiscing about past painful versus other distressing events despite key developmental differences in how young children respond to pain versus sadness in others. This study aimed to fill that gap. METHODS: Seventy-eight children aged 4 to 7 years underwent a tonsillectomy. Two weeks postsurgery, children and one of their parents discussed past autobiographical events (i.e., the tonsillectomy, another painful event, a sad event). Parent-child conversations were coded using established coding schemes to capture parental reminiscing style, content, and autonomy support. RESULTS: Findings revealed robust differences in parent-child reminiscing about painful versus sad events. Parents were less elaborative, used less emotionally negative words and explanations, and were less supportive of their children's autonomy while reminiscing about past painful versus sad events. CONCLUSIONS: These findings demonstrate that through reminiscing, parents may socialize children about pain in a way that is different from other distressing events (e.g., sadness). Future research should examine the influence of differential reminiscing about pain versus sadness on developmental and health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-691
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Pediatric Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date7 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • children
  • pain
  • parents
  • reminiscing
  • sadness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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