The interface of maternal and child psychological and physical health: What maternal chronic pain means for children's functioning
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A series of questions regarding the impact of maternal chronic pain on children were addressed in this dissertation. Firstly, the physical and psychosocial functioning of 39 mothers suffering from chronic pain was compared to 35 control healthy mothers in order to determine the extent to which mothers with chronic pain may be compromised and their children may be at risk. It was found that mothers with chronic pain had decreased physical, mental and social functioning, as well as reduced parenting efficacy. Secondly, the children of these mothers were compared on a range of physical and psychosocial health outcome measures. The 55 children in the maternal chronic pain group experienced maladjustment, as reported by children, mothers and fathers. This included reduced physical and mental health compared to the 48 control children, as well as reduced attachment security and social skills. Thirdly, although a number of maternal psychosocial variables, such as maternal mental health were correlated with child functioning, only one variable – parenting - consistently emerged as a significant predictor of child problems. In particular, the warmth of the mother-child relationship, and the mother's use of over-reactive discipline strategies were significant mediators. The findings reflect that maternal chronic pain is a source of risk for many children. Consistent with much of the maternal chronic stressor literature, the mechanism of transmission from physical compromise in the mother to maladjustment in the child appears to largely involve dysfunctional parenting practices. The findings are discussed in terms of the cost of maternal chronic pain to children and society. In particular, intervention needs to be targeted at suffering mothers and their children. This will reduce the deleterious consequences for children and the potential demands of a new generation of sufferers on the public health system.