382 Gender & Pain

Research by Earp, Brian. D., Monrad, J. T., LaFrance, M., Bargh, J. A., Cohen, L. L., & Richeson, Jennifer. A. (2019).

Written by Shannon Cantalupo, B.S. 

Have you heard the stereotype that boys are “tougher” than girls? Or, girls are crybabies? Do gender stereotypes lead adults to believe boys feel less pain?

To find out if adults perceived gender differences in children feeling pain when undergoing a medical procedure, researchers asked a diverse group of 260 adults to watch a video of a child of ambiguous gender receive a finger prick during a doctor’s visit. Participants rated how much pain the child experienced. Researchers told half that the child was male, the other half female.

Results? Although the participants watched the same video, the participants who were told the child was a boy, rated the “boy” as experiencing more pain even though both the “boy’s” and the “girl’s” actual reaction was the same. This shows gender bias when deciding a child’s pain level.

We adults likely have a gender bias towards a child’s pain, with the tendency to under-rate girl’s pain and over-rate boy’s pain! This could result in dismissing girls’ complaints of pain or giving boys too much pain medicine and not giving girls enough. Be aware of this biased tendency in our culture.


Earp, B. D., Monrad, J. T., LaFrance, M., Bargh, J. A., Cohen, L. L., & Richeson, J. A. (2019). Gender bias in pediatric pain assessment. Journal of Pediatric Psychology, 44(4), 403-414.

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