Being less of a man or less of a woman: Perceptions of chronic pain patients' gender identities

  • Bernardes S
  • Lima M
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Living with chronic pain may be a threatening experience to one's own gender identity. Findings suggest that the presence of chronic pain does not allow individuals to achieve the most valued standards of being male or female in our societies. Such contention, however, has not yet been empirically supported. Therefore, our goal was to explore laypeople's and nurses' perceptions of the man/woman with chronic low-back pain (CLBP) as compared to the typical man/woman, respectively. Three hundred and sixteen laypeople (52.8% women) and 161 nurses (54% women) participated in this study. Half of the participants were presented with a written vignette depicting a man/woman with CLBP, followed by a list of 33 traits of the masculine and feminine stereotypes. Participants evaluated the extent to which each trait fit their image of the man/woman with CLBP. The other half of the participants described the image people in general had of the typical man/woman using the same list of traits. This study consisted on a quasi-experimental design, 2 (character's sex) × 2 (type of character) × 2 (participant's sex) × 2 (health-care training). Results have generally supported our hypotheses. Both laypeople and nurses perceived: (1) the man with CLBP as having less masculinity and more femininity-related traits than the typical man; (2) the woman with CLBP as having less femininity and more masculinity-related traits than the typical woman; and (3) the man and woman with CLBP as more similar to each other than the typical man/woman. Issues on gender identity conflicts in CP patients are discussed. © 2009 European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain Chapters.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Chronic low-back pain
  • Femininity
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Masculinity
  • Nurses

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