Adults take girls’ pain less seriously, says study
The researchers attribute this downgrading of the pain of girls and upgrading of the pain of boys to culturally ingrained myths.
A new study conducted by Yale and published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that American adults believe boys to be in more pain than girls. The observation was made based on how much pain a child is experiencing based on reactions to a finger-stick.
The researchers attribute this downgrading of the pain of girls and/or upgrading of the pain of boys to culturally ingrained, and scientifically unproven, myths like “boys are more stoic” or “girls are more emotive.”
The study saw a diverse group of American adults watching the same video of a 5-year-old receiving a finger-stick at a pre-Kindergarten doctor’s visit. They were later asked to rate how much pain they thought the child was actually experiencing.
While all participants watched an identical video of an identical child exhibiting identical pain-display behaviours, the group who knew the child as “Samuel” said he was in more pain than the group who knew her as “Samantha.” This new research backs up studies done on gender stereotyping and biased clinical assessment of pain in adult patient populations but is only the second of its kind to take these questions to the pediatric level.
Speaking about the study, second author Joshua Monrad said, “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.”
“If the phenomena that we observed in our studies generalise 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,” he added.