IWK pediatric research looks at links between siblings and pain

A study of how siblings experience each other's pain is taking place during March break at the IWK's Centre for Pediatric Pain Research in Halifax.

Siblings ages 8 to 12 sought by study to better understand how they affect each other's pain experiences

A Dalhousie University PhD student will conduct a pediatric pain study involving siblings at the IWK Hospital in Halifax over the March break. (CBC)

A study of how siblings experience each other's pain is taking place during March break at the IWK's Centre for Pediatric Pain Research in Halifax.   

The study will consider the ways in which brothers and sisters can help — or possibly make worse — the pain a sibling is feeling. 

"We know a lot from previous research that parents' behaviour can make a child's experience better or make it go a bit worse," said Meghan Schinkel, a Dalhousie University PhD student working on her dissertation study in clinical psychology. 

"We also know siblings are often around when a child experiences pain — parents will bring brothers or sisters along for flu shots or immunizations. But no one's really looked at what siblings are doing. We don't know how having a sibling present might influence a child's experience of pain." 

The test

Siblings will be asked to do a cold water task in the research centre. One will put his or her hand in a tub of ice-cold water for as long as they can while the other sits and observes in the same room. then they'll switch places. 

"We'll watch what the child doing the cold water task does, how the sibling behaves, the things they talk to each other about," Schinkel said.

"I hope the study will give us information to share with parents and health care professionals around having a sibling present when a child is in pain."

The study is looking for groups of siblings between ages eight to 12 in any combination of genders.

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