Pain of girls taken less seriously than that of boys in study showing sexism starts early

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Pain of girls taken less seriously than that of boys in study showing sexism starts early

The "Journal of Pediatric Psychology" study found women were more likely to downplay pain shown by girls than men were. Researchers called it a "mystery."

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Be vigilant about safety. Babyproof your home thoroughly, and never leave a child under 5 in the tub alone. Make sure car seats are installed correctly, and insist that your child wear a helmet when riding his bike or scooter.

Sonja Haller, USA TODAY Published 6:00 a.m. ET Feb. 4, 2019
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It hurts to be a girl.

In addition to physical pain from playground boo-boos, comes the first cut of what it feels like not be taken seriously because of gender bias.

New research from Yale, which builds on a 2014 study , confirms that adults believe a child is feeling pain, rather than just complaining of it, when the child is a boy as opposed to a girl.

The surprising twist? Women are more guilty of this than men.

A study published this month in the " Journal of Pediatric Psychology " asked adults to assess how much pain a child was experiencing by looking at identical reactions to a finger-stick test. Adults upgraded the level of pain they thought boys were feeling and downgraded the girls' pain.

"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 Yale study in a news release .

The belief that 'boys are more stoic' and 'girls are more emotive'

Monrad and researchers hope the study prompts pediatric doctors to notice and correct their own biases in health care practice.

As part of the study, 264 adults were told they were watching a video of a child's prekindergarten finger-prick test at a doctor's office. Men and women were told to rate the pain based on a child's reaction on a level from 0 (no pain) to 100 (severe pain). The catch is that both children — a boy and a girl — had the same reaction to the test.

Say "I love you" whenever you feel it, even if it's 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible.

Adults rated the boy's pain as 50.42 and the girl's at 45.90.

The study's conclusion: "Explicit gender stereotypes — for example, that boys are more stoic or girls are more emotive — may bias adult assessment of children’s pain."

Here comes the twist

Researchers at the Yale University Department of Psychology-funded study found that women were more likely to downgrade female pain than men.

"This is a big mystery,” Brian D. Earp, associate director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy told the Washington Post . “We’re spitballing to come up with a reason.”

Kate Manne, Cornell University philosopher and author of "Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny," told the newspaper it wasn't all that surprising, but was "really sad."

"Since there's more pressure on women to be appropriately sympathetic to pain, and since we're biased in the direction of taking male pain more seriously, it make sense that women are as bad if not worse," she said.

Research has shown that young kids do not experience pain differently based on gender, at least until puberty.

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Give appropriate praise. Instead of simply saying, "You're great," try to be specific about what your child did to deserve the positive feedback. You might say, "Waiting until I was off the phone to ask for cookies was hard, and I really liked your patience."