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Objectives: To examine whether an association exists between parent and child pain, and, if so, whether this relationship persists after adjusting for psychosocial difficulties in the child.
Methods: 1326 schoolchildren took part in a questionnaire based, cross sectional survey. Parents of study participants were sent a postal questionnaire. Occurrence of body pain was ascertained using blank body manikins and, in children, psychosocial factors were assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. Three child-parent pain relationships were examined: any child pain with any parental pain or with parental widespread pain; and child low back pain with parental low back pain.
Results: The risk of child pain associated with parental reporting of pain was minor, and non-significant. Even when both parents reported widespread pain, the relative risk of pain in the child, after adjusting for age and psychosocial difficulties, was 1.2 (95% CI 0.5 to 3.2).
Conclusions: Parental pain is not a risk for child pain. Pain behaviour is not learned. Rather, child pain is probably attributable to individual factors and the social environment.