Study Finds We Take Girls' Pain Less Seriously Than Boys

girl in pain

Women are the strongest, most resilient beings on the planet. We do it all - making babies, carrying babies, nurturing and raising them into amazing people. We handle everything life throws at us with grace and work hard every single day. We are physical, emotional, and mental warriors. But we also have a lot of cards stacked against us, just by virtue of being women. We make less money than our male counterparts for doing the same (or more) work. We aren't taken seriously, and our emotions are used against us at work and sometimes at home. We also have a harder time being heard, particularly when it comes to the medical community.

If you're a woman, you've likely experienced this during a doctor's visit. Your pain or symptoms are downplayed, chalked up to "that time of the month" or worse, ignored completely. It's a frustrating experience, to say the least. And a new study shows that it starts in childhood.

The study was done by Yale University and published in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology. It highlights the gender bias in this country, and shows that the bias is evident even among children. Researchers compiled data from 264 adult participants between the ages of 18 and 75 (the group was split equally male and female). The participants were shown a video of a 5-year-old child receiving a finger prick at a doctor's visit. The pain behaviors displayed by the child were equal in the video.

However, the group who watched the video when the child was "Samuel" felt that the child experienced more pain than the group who watched the video with the child as "Samantha". Interestingly enough, male participants rated Samuel and Samantha's pain more closely together, while the female participants reported the boy's pain to be much more severe.

The study's authors concluded that explicit gender stereotypes and biases played a role in how participants rated the child's pain. For example, boys are seen as stronger and more stoic, so it's possible that participants believed that for the boy to have that type of reaction, he must have been experiencing real pain (remember, the reactions to the finger-prick were identical). However, it also suggests that the girl's pain was not taken as seriously, even though Samuel and Samantha reacted the same to the procedure.

Clearly, there is a gender bias when it comes to pain assessment and health care in general. This bias can be the difference between life and death when it comes to medical treatment for women.

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