Gender Bias in Pediatric Pain Assessment

  1. Marianne LaFrance
  2. John A. Bargh
  3. Lindsey Cohen

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Description: Objective: Observer rating of pain is central to diagnosis and treatment in healthcare, especially in pediatrics. However, there are few studies examining potential biases in observer ratings of pediatric pain. Cohen et al. (2014) reported that adult participants rated a video of a child undergoing a needle stick as experiencing more pain when the child was described as a boy as compared to a girl, suggesting a possible gender bias. To confirm, clarify, and extend this finding, we conducted a replication experiment and follow-up study examining the role of explicit gender stereotypes in shaping such asymmetric judgments. Method: In an independent, pre-registered, direct replication and extension study with open data and materials (, we showed participants the same video from Cohen et al. (2014), with the child described as a boy or a girl depending on condition. We then asked adults to rate how much pain the child experienced and displayed, how typical the child was in these respects, and how much they agreed with explicit gender stereotypes concerning pain response in boys versus girls. Results: Similar to Cohen et al. (2014), but with a larger and more demographically diverse sample, we found that the ‘boy’ was rated as experiencing more pain than the ‘girl’ despite identical clinical circumstances and identical pain behavior cross conditions. Controlling for explicit gender stereotypes eliminated the effect. Conclusions: Explicit gender stereotypes—e.g., that boys are more ‘stoic’ or girls are more emotive—may bias adult assessment of children’s pain.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International

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