| gender differences

Assessing Children’s Pain: Are Girls Taken Less Seriously?

Study Associates Commonly Held Gender Biases with Adults’ Judgement on Pain

New research conducted by the Yale University Department of Psychology concludes that gender biases held by US adults may be adversely affecting the assessment of pain in girls. Participants were shown 1 of 2 versions of a video depicting a finger-stick administered to a 5-year-old patient during a pediatric doctor visit and were asked to gauge how much pain was experienced by the subject. When the subject was known as “Samuel,” viewers responded that more pain was experienced than when the subject was introduced as “Samantha.” The study builds on previous work that associates gender bias and skewed pain assessment in adult patient groups. Second author Joshua Monrad, commented “We really hope that these findings will lead to further investigation into the potential role of biases in pain assessment and health care more generally.” The findings were published earlier this month in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

According to the authors, the work is only the second such investigation into the role of gender bias on pain assessment in children. The authors hypothesize that widely held perceptions such as “girls are more emotive” or “boys are more stoic” may lead to incorrect minimization of pain assessment in girls and exaggeration of assessed pain in boys. Author Monrad continued, "If the phenomena that we observed in our studies generalize to other contexts, it would have important implications for diagnosis and treatment. Any biases in judgments about pain would be hugely important because they can exacerbate inequitable health care provision."

For more about gender and pain, click here.

Read about the findings.

The journal abstract may be read here.