B4493 - The role of executive functioning in young peoples ability to engage with chronic pain self-management - 18/12/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Line Caes | University of Sitrling
Dr. Julia Allan
Title of project: 
The role of executive functioning in young people's ability to engage with chronic pain self-management
Proposal summary: 

Chronic pain is common problem in young people (occurring in up to a third) that can negatively impact their daily functioning such as attending school/work, socialising with friends, and their mental health (also known as "interference due to pain"). Intervening early by helping young people to self-manage pain, through regularly taking medication, completing exercises, and using relaxation, can improve their day to day lives. However, research shows that the long-term effects of these interventions are moderate at best, and young people (aged 10 - 18) often have difficulty taking responsibility for these complex self-management tasks. This project will help us to understand these difficulties and to better support young people's in managing their pain experiences as they mature, by exploring the role of executive functioning skills in their pain experiences and self-management. To live an independent life, young people learn how to control and organise their thoughts, behaviours, and emotions. These executive functioning skills are pivotal to the successful self-management of chronic pain. However, preliminary evidence suggests that these executive functioning skill in young people with chronic pain may develop more slowly and may be weakened further by the experience of chronic pain. We need to know more about the relationship between chronic pain and control skills to understand young people’s difficulties with self-managing their pain and improve our interventions to better support them.
To this end, the PhD project aims to find out how chronic pain, executive functioning skills and self-management difficulties are related to each other in young people. This aim will achieved through 3 related studies:
1) Using existing data on executive functioning skills and chronic pain experiences from the ALSPAC cohort to identify differences in executive functioning skills between in young people with and without chronic pain.
2) Conducting interviews with 20 young people with chronic pain to identify which self-management tasks are most important to them, and how we can best measure their engagement with these tasks.
3) Conducting a study in 100 young people (of which half have chronic pain, and the other half have not) who will complete a set of tasks, including memory tests and problem-solving tasks, and questionnaires to assess their pain and self-management experiences. Participants will complete this set of tasks and questionnaires at 2 time points (1 year apart from each other), which will allow us to compare how executive functioning skills develop over time in young people with and without chronic pain, and how these are related to their engagement with self-management tasks.

Impact of research: 
In the short term, the project’s impact is an increased understanding and awareness of the role of executive functioning skills in young people's experience of chronic pain and effective engagement with pain-related self- management. In the long term, our project aims to improve young people's engagement with and adherence to pain management interventions, thereby improving wellbeing of young people with chronic pain and their families.
Date proposal received: 
Tuesday, 12 December, 2023
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 18 December, 2023
Mental health - Psychology, Psychiatry, Cognition, Pain, Statistical methods, Cognition - cognitive function