A program of studies was designed to select and test a pain intensity scale for inclusion in a multidimensional pain assessment tool for children and adolescents. The focus was on determining each scale's validity, reliability, ease of use, preference, and the lack of age, gender, and ethnic biases. Five pain scales were evaluated in four separate studies: a word‐graphic rating scale, a visual analogue scale, a graded‐graphic rating scale, a magnitude estimation scale (0 to 10), and a color scale. Subjects (N = 1,223) were 8 to 17 years of age and, in three of the studies, were hospitalized and judged to be in pain. In Study 1, well children used the scales to assess pain in an analogue situation selecting the color scale easiest to use and best liked. Convergent validity for the five scales was supported. In Study 2, hospitalized children, who were experiencing pain, overwhelmingly selected the word‐graphic rating scale as their choice. A pilot version of a multidimensional pain assessment tool incorporating the word‐graphic rating scale was tested in Study 3 using a repeated measures design. The scale demonstrated sensitivity to changes in postoperative pain intensity over time. In Study 4, convergent validity of the five scales and test—retest reliability of the word‐graphic rating scale were supported. The series of four studies provides strong evidence to support use of the word‐graphic rating scale to measure pain intensity in pediatric populations.
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