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Remembering the hurt of childhood: A psychological review and call for future research

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Noel, M., Pavlova, M., McCallum, L., & Vinall, J. (2017). Remembering the hurt of childhood: A psychological review and call for future research. Canadian Psychology, 53(1), 58-68.


From the first days of life, children frequently encounter pain. Given the highly subjective nature of pain and the powerful modulating influence that one’s cognitions, emotions, and behaviors can have on how pain is experienced, pain is a fascinating field for psychological inquiry. One particularly important aspect of pain phenomenology is memory for pain. Pain memory is a critical cognitive requirement for children to self-report on their pain and invariably shapes how they cope with pain in the future. How individuals remember pain from childhood can set the stage for future pain and health behaviors well into adulthood and may underlie the development of chronic pain. Importantly, pain memories are malleable, particularly in childhood, and can be harnessed in psychological interventions to reframe memories to be more accurate/positive to improve pain experiences. This paper provides a narrative review of the literature on children’s memory for pain to build upon previous reviews on this topic. In light of advances in neuroimaging techniques and research in pediatric pain, we summarize relevant literature on the neurobiology of pain memories to stimulate future interdisciplinary research in this area. Finally, additional directions for future research and clinical practice are discussed.