Children and adolescents frequently experience chronic pain that can disrupt their usual activities and lead to poor physical and emotional functioning. The fear avoidance model of pain with an emphasis on the maladaptive behaviors that lead to activity avoidance has guided research and clinical practice. However, this model does not take into consideration variability in responses to pain, in particular the active pursuit of goals despite pain. This review aims to introduce a novel conceptualization of children’s activity engagement versus avoidance using the framework of goal pursuit. We propose a new model of Goal Pursuit in Pediatric Chronic Pain, which proposes that the child’s experience of pain is modified by child factors (e.g., goal salience, motivation/energy, pain-related anxiety/fear, and self-efficacy) and parent factors (e.g., parent expectations for pain, protectiveness behaviors, and parent anxiety), which lead to specific goal pursuit behaviors. Goal pursuit is framed as engagement or avoidance of valued goals when in pain. Next, we recommend that research in youth with chronic pain should be reframed to account for the pursuit of valued goals within the context of pain and suggest directions for future research.
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