Through use of a qualitative ethological approach, observations of 17 children who were undergoing 44 painful procedures during cancer diagnosis or treatment were videotaped and analyzed. The children, aged 4 to 18 years, were part of a larger study testing the effectiveness of nonpharmacologic pain management techniques. Analysis of the videotaped observations revealed that several distinct patterns of conversation between caregivers, parents, and children varied greatly among situations. Both child-centered and nonchild-centered communications were demonstrated. During periods of quiet, nonchild-centered behaviors increased. As a child's distress increased, parents actively changed behaviors to redirect verbal support back to the child and to the pain control interventions. Nurses' encouraging parents to be actively involved and physically close during painful treatments may result in less distress and discomfort for the child. In addition, health care professionals need to be aware of the various patterns of child-parent-caregiver interactions and the need to stay focused on the child during painful procedures to enhance the child's ability to cope.
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