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A multi-dimensional approach was used to examine coping in chronic pain. The following hypotheses were tested: (a) patients who cope maladaptively also cope generally in a similar way; (b) patients' maladaptive coping is associated with childhood adversity.
Cross-sectional and retrospective data were collected from 68 consecutive patients (aged 18–70) at a pain clinic where their disease was non-systemic and the pain had lasted for at least three months. Sixty-one patients were interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM–III–R, and the Measure of Parental Care in Childhood. All patients completed questionnaires on their pain and personality.
Two coping styles emerged from factor analysis. One was associated with chronicity, psychiatric morbidity, harm avoidance, immature defence style and reporting parental indifference.
Patients may be predisposed to cope maladaptively after the experience of parental indifference in early life. Such coping is likely to reflect more general patterns.
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