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Mothers and pain: the effect of a mother's pain experience on the child


How does the preceding experience of pain by the mother affect the child's response to the painful event? This work intends to be a preliminary answer to this problem. A questionnaire with 10 items was administered to 217 mothers aged 26/45 years, with 1 (44%) or 2 (47%) children, and from different regions of central and southern Italy. The majority of the mothers had a memory of a supporting response by her family to her experience of pain. 50% of the mothers recalled an episode of physical pain and 20% an episode of moral pain. The memory of moral pain was more widespread in the South (71% of all the mothers). The definition of pain was negative (62%): pain was experienced either as a threat to health or a limitation to one's freedom. The children, conversely, dealt with pain in 67% of the cases by looking for their parents and asking for help; 33% dealt with pain alone. 91% of the mothers who become upset when they have pain have children who, when they are ill, behave in the same manner.

It is in the South that the relationships in the family remain mainly unchanged (68%) on the occasion of an illness of a child, while it is in central Italy that these improve more easily. For mothers, pain is a substantially negative experience. The study shows that a family experience of pain is passed, as far as the manner of dealing with it is concernec, from one generation to another.

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Received: 10 March 2000, Accepted in revised form: 13 November 2000

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Moscato, D., Regine, A., Ribaudo, F. et al. Mothers and pain: the effect of a mother's pain experience on the child. J Headache Pain 1, 111–118 (2000).

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  • Key words Pain
  • Family experience
  • Mother
  • Child


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