Wratten, Samantha, Christopher Eccleston, & Edmund Keogh (2019, February). Perceptions of gendered and ungendered pain relief norms and stereotypes using Q-methodology. Pain, 160(2), 395-406. (doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001409)

Abstract: Pain is ubiquitous, but effective pain relief eludes many. Research has shown that some pain behaviours are perceived as gendered, and this may influence the way men and women express and cope with pain, but such enquiries have not extended to specific methods of pain relief. Our aim was to explore perceptions of the most socially acceptable ways for men and women to relieve pain. Across two studies, sixty participants (50% male) aged 18-78 completed a Q-sort task, sorting different pain relief strategies by the social acceptability for either women (Study 1; N=30) or men (Study 2; N=30). Analyses revealed two stereotypes for each sex. The overarching stereotype for women suggested it is most acceptable for them to use pain relief strategies considered conventional and effective. However, a second stereotype suggested it is most acceptable for women to use strategies which generally conform to feminine gender norms and stereotypes. The overarching male stereotype suggested it is most acceptable for men to use pain relief aligned with stereotypical masculinity, however a second stereotype also emerged, characterised by conventional and effective responses to pain, much like the overarching stereotype for women. These differing viewpoints seem to depend on whether gender norm conformity or perceived analgesic efficacy is thought to determine social acceptability. These studies provide initial evidence of both a gendered and ungendered lens through which pain relief can be viewed, which may influence how men and women use pain relief.

Samantha Wratten <s.k.wratten@bath.ac.uk> is in the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Pain Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom.

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