Parental catastrophizing about children's pain and selective attention to varying levels of facial expression of pain in children: a dot-probe study.Pain. 2011 Aug; 152(8):1751-1757.PAIN
The attentional demand of pain has primarily been investigated within an intrapersonal context. Little is known about observers' attentional processing of another's pain. The present study investigated, within a sample of parents (n=65; 51 mothers, 14 fathers) of school children, parental selective attention to children's facial display of pain and the moderating role of child's facial expressiveness of pain and parental catastrophizing about their child's pain. Parents performed a dot-probe task in which child facial display of pain (of varying pain expressiveness) were presented. Findings provided evidence of parental selective attention to child pain displays. Low facial displays of pain appeared sufficiently and also, as compared with higher facial displays of pain, equally capable of engaging parents' attention to the location of threat. Severity of facial displays of pain had a nonspatial effect on attention; that is, there was increased interference (ie, delayed responding) with increasing facial expressiveness. This interference effect was particularly pronounced for high-catastrophizing parents, suggesting that being confronted with increasing child pain displays becomes particularly demanding for high-catastrophizing parents. Finally, parents with higher levels of catastrophizing increasingly attended away from low pain expressions, whereas selective attention to high-pain expressions did not differ between high-catastrophizing and low-catastrophizing parents. Theoretical implications and further research directions are discussed.