How Gender Bias Can Influence Pediatric Pain Assessment

Anushika Srivastava
New Update
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To gauge the pain a child is going through, we take into consideration the behavioural changes. Crying is one of the common indications. But do we pay less attention to the pain suffered by a girl child than the boy? Well, it is a bit astonishing, but gender bias has also crept into how we perceive the pain of a child.


According to a new study from Yale University, based on observation of behavioural changes, people tend to believe boys to be in more pain than girls. The important takeways from the study are:

  • Gauging a child's pain is difficult and is often done by paying attention towards the behavioural changes.
  • The study assessed the reaction of 183 adults towards the video of a five-year-old child receiving a finger stick blood test.
  • Half of the participants were told that the child is male named Samuel while half of them were told that the child is female named Samantha.
  • The results showed that the people who were told that the child is a boy said the child is in more pain than the ones who were told that the child is a female.
  • The results also showed that people think girls are more sensitive and reactive towards pain as compared to boys. This leads in underestimating the pain that a girl child goes through.

Negative Impact Of Gender Bias In Pain Assessment

Gender bias has always been a negative factor for every context. When it creeps into medications, it has even more adverse impacts. The following two areas are affected by gender bias in pain assessment:

  • Diagnosis

"Diagnosis of a child's disease or medical problem is affected when people start underestimating a girl's pain. Considering her to be over sensitive and over-reactive, they might keep on procrastinating. This affects the diagnosis of what the child is actually going through," says Nidhi Chhabra, a pediatrician.


We all know how diagnosis is important to discover a disease initially and then move on to the prescribed treatment. Gender bias in assessing the pain might result in a delay in diagnosis, thereby affecting the overall health of the girl child.

  • Treatment

"Since the diagnosis is delayed, treatment might be affected severely. This becomes problematic because it is very much necessary for a medical condition to be diagnosed and treated at the right time," adds Dr Chhabra. Gender bias in pain assessment might not only lead to delay in diagnosis but also in inequitable treatment.

Why It's Important To Take Her Pain Seriously

"Women's sensitivity towards pain is a physical phenomenon. Due to more nerve receptors in females, they might feel more pain than men. Therefore, it is important to take a girl's pain seriously," adds Dr Chhabra. No matter whatever the intensity of pain, it hurts irrespective of the gender. Therefore, it is vital to eliminate gender bias from such issues.

Read More: Gender Bias Kills 239,000 Girls Under Five In India Each Year: Study


Anushika Srivastava is an Intern with SheThePeople.Tv

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