Researchers at the IWK's Centre For Pediatric Pain are looking into the role siblings can play in a child’s experience with pain.

Siblings Brooke and Koen Schlief are part of the centre’s study on pediatric pain.

“They're going to answer some questions, they're going to work together to build a tower, then they're also going to do something called the cold water task,” says researcher Meghan Schinkel.

Schinkel says the cold water task is often used at the lab to learn more about how children feel pain.

“We ask them to put their hand in a tub of cold water and keep it in there as long as they can until it gets too uncomfortable, or hurts too much, and then they can take it out whenever they want to,” says Schinkel.

In this study, the participant's sibling will be sitting across from them while they have their hand in the water.

“We're really interested in seeing how a child might behave when they see their sibling in pain and whether some of those things they do might be helpful to their sibling, or not so helpful,” says Schinkel.

For 11-year-old Koen, having his eight-year-old sister in the room was mostly helpful.

“It was a bit weird, it was sort of hard to notice her at times, but it was sort of supportive too,” says Koen.

Brooke used the word 'annoying' to describe her brother's presence, but admitted he was also a welcome distraction.

“Some of the pain went away, a bit, but not gone,” says Brooke.

Schinkel says the study is in the early stages and the researchers are not sure what to expect.

“We know a lot about how parents can influence children's experience with pain, but nobody has really looked at how siblings are able to influence children's experiences,” says Schinkel.

Schinkel hopes the outcome will provide useful information for both healthcare professionals and parents.

“Painful experiences are common for children and there's lots of things parents and families can do to help make that experience go smoother, so we're hoping that this study might be able to contribute to that so that families can learn more about what they can do when their child is in pain,” says Schinkel.

The researchers are still looking for siblings between the age of eight and 12, plus one of their parents to participate in the study.