A pilot study investigating the role of gender in the intergenerational relationships between gene expression, chronic pain, and adverse childhood experiences in a clinical sample of youth with chronic pain

Jennaya Christensen, Jaimie K. Beveridge, Melinda Wang, Serena L. Orr, Melanie Noel, Richelle Mychasiuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Chronic pain is a highly prevalent and costly issue that often emerges during childhood or adolescence and persists into adulthood. Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) increase risk for several adverse health conditions, including chronic pain. Recent evidence suggests that parental trauma (ACEs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms) confers risk of poor health outcomes in their children. Intergenerational relationships between parental trauma and child chronic pain may be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms. A clinical sample of youth with chronic pain and their parents completed psychometrically sound questionnaires assessing ACEs, PTSD symptoms, and chronic pain, and provided a saliva sample. These were used to investigate the intergenerational relationships between four epigenetic biomarkers (COMT, DRD2, GR, and SERT), trauma, and chronic pain. The results indicated that the significant biomarkers were dependent upon the gender of the child, wherein parental ACEs significantly correlated with changes in DRD2 expression in female children and altered COMT expression in the parents of male children. Additionally, the nature of the ACE (maltreatment vs. household dysfunction) was associated with the specific epigenetic changes. There may be different pathways through which parental ACEs confer risk for poor outcomes for males and females, highlighting the importance of child gender in future investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages17
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • ACEs
  • Adolescents
  • Biomarker
  • Children
  • Dopamine
  • Epigenetics
  • Parents
  • PTSD
  • Trauma

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