Pain, pain catastrophizing, and individual differences in executive function in adolescence

Tyler Bell, Jessica H. Mirman, Despina Stavrinos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many adolescents will experience pain at some point in their development that can lead to poor quality of life. The largest risk factor for pain is tendency to magnify and ruminate on pain, known as pain catastrophizing. One mechanism of catastrophizing may be difficulties with executive function, or the ability to cognitively control information. The objective of the current study was to determine if adolescent executive function difficulties relate to high catastrophizing and pain. Fifty adolescents completed measures of pain, pain catastrophizing, and executive function. Path models revealed relations among gender, executive function domains, pain catastrophizing domains, and pain. In general, pain catastrophizing was associated with problems with shifting and inhibition. Females reported high catastrophizing and pain, partially explained by executive function difficulty. Executive function difficulty may help clinicians identify adolescents prone to catastrophize painful events. Interventions addressing these difficulties may reduce catastrophizing as well as pain intensity and duration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-37
Number of pages21
JournalChildren's Health Care
Issue number1
Early online date28 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2019


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