An investigation into the role gender stereotypes play in relation to assessing pain in children has recently been carried out by psychologists. The researchers wanted to see whether there was a difference in people’s outlook on boys in pain versus girls in pain. The study found that adults tend to believe boys to be in more pain than girls.
This discovery reveals that gender stereotypes can literally hurt children. According to a new Yale study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, when asked to assess how much pain a child is experiencing based on the observation of identical reactions to a finger-stick, American adults believe boys to be in more pain than girls. The reason for this downgrading of the pain of girls and/or upgrading of the pain of boys is due to culturally ingrained, and scientifically unproven, myths like “boys are more stoic” or “girls are more emotive.”
- A diverse selection of American adults participated.
- They all watched the same short video of a 5-year-old receiving a finger-stick at a pre-Kindergarten doctor’s visit. There were two groups – one that saw a video of a boy, and another that saw a video of a girl; regardless, each participant watched an identical video of an identical child exhibiting identical pain-display behaviors.
- After watching the child’s reaction to the pain, the adults were asked to rate how much pain they thought the child was actually experiencing.
- 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. This research is important because it is something that people need to bear in mind in order to give fair, equal health care services to individuals, regardless of gender. Joshua Monrad, second author on the study, 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 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.”
To properly diagnose and give good treatment in healthcare, it is important to accurately assess a patients pain, especially in pediatrics. Although, most of the time if someone is being gender-biased, they wouldn’t even know it. Now hopefully, with studies like this shining the light on the issue, there will be greater equality in the gauging of children’s pain, regardless if they are male or female.