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Perceptions of gendered and ungendered pain relief norms and stereotypes using Q-methodology

Wratten, Samanthaa,b,*; Eccleston, Christopherb,c; Keogh, Edmunda,b

doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001409
Research Paper

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 2 studies, 60 participants (50% men) aged 18 to 78 years 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 2 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 that 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 believed 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.

Two Q-sort studies found that perceived analgesic efficacy and gender norm conformity determine social acceptability of male and female use of analgesic behaviours.

aDepartment of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom

bCentre for Pain Research, University of Bath, Bath, United Kingdom

cDepartment of Clinical and Health Psychology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium

Corresponding author. Address: Department of Psychology, University of Bath, Bath, BA2 7AY, United Kingdom. Tel.:+44 (0) 1225 383671. E-mail address: (S. Wratten).

Sponsorships or competing interests that may be relevant to content are disclosed at the end of this article.

Received May 16, 2018

Received in revised form September 13, 2018

Accepted September 20, 2018

© 2019 International Association for the Study of Pain
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