Yale University Study Finds Gender Bias in Pain Assessment of Children

According to a new study from Yale University, 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. Previous research as been done on gender stereotyping of pain in adult patients, but this study is only the second of its kind to research this issue on a pediatric level.

For their study, the researchers had a diverse sample of American adults watch the same video of a 5-year-old receiving a finger-stick at a pre-kindergarten doctor’s visit. After watching the video, the participants were asked to rate how much pain they thought the child was actually experiencing. Every participant watched an identical video of an identical child exhibiting identical pain-display behaviors, however half of the participants were told the child’s name was Samuel and the other half were told the child’s name was Samantha. The results showed that the group who thought the child was a boy said the child was in more pain than the group that thought the child was a girl. The researchers attribute this downgrading of pain in girls to culturally ingrained myths such as “girls are more emotive.”

“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,” said Joshua Monrad, second author on the study. “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.”

The full study, “Gender Bias in Pediatric Pain Assessment,” was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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