Why do we hurt differently? How Childhood Experiences Affect Adult Pain Perception

Shivers, Jessica [Browse]
Senior thesis
45 pages


Sugarman, Susan [Browse]
Lew-Williams, Casey [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Psychology [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
The relationship between childhood and current experiences with subjective pain perception was explored using athletic participation as a point of comparison. Numerous previous studied proved athletes have a higher pain tolerance and so it was assumed they had higher tolerance in this study. Participants were divided into four conditions athletes (71), non-athletes (84), musicians (29) and ambiguous (4). They were given three questionnaires; childhood experiences, current experiences, and pain sensitivity. Pain sensitivity revealed no significant differences suggesting they all had the same pain thresholds. An analysis of variance found a main effect of category of group affiliation on both current (F(3, 188)= 7.83, p<0.05, η2=0.113) and childhood (F(3, 184)= 9.141, p<.05, η2=0.132) experiences. The Baron and Kenny method was used to explore the possible mediation. A linear regression was run using affiliation as a dumby variable revealing both childhood experiences and affiliation were able to significantly predict current experiences [(β=0.464, p<0.01) and (β=0.207, p<0.02), respectively]. This proves a partial mediation. It is concluded that while causation cannot be claimed, learned childhood pain behaviors influence adult pain experiences.

Supplementary Information