Research suggests that gender role expectations may influence pain response. However, little work has been done to examine the relationships between gender role expectations and experimental pain outcomes, or to examine these relationships across phases of the menstrual cycle. To address this, the present study examined gender role expectations across the mid-follicular, ovulatory, and late-luteal phases of the menstrual cycle in 54 healthy, pain-free women. Prior to testing, gender role expectations were measured using the Gender Role Expectations of Pain questionnaire (GREP), which was designed to measure sex-related stereotypic attributions of pain sensitivity (higher scores mean women are more sensitive), endurance (higher scores mean women have less endurance), and willingness to report pain (higher scores mean men are more likely to report). Furthermore the scale is designed to measure self attributions of pain sensitivity and endurance. Electric (NFR threshold, pain ratings of suprathreshold electric stimulations, pain threshold and tolerance, sensory and affective pain ratings) and ischemic (threshold and tolerance, sensory and affective ratings) pain outcomes were measured. Results indicated that self endurance was positively correlated with electric threshold across all phases. During ovulation, self-endurance was also positively correlated with electric tolerance and negatively correlated with suprathreshold ratings. Willingness to report pain was positively correlated with electric threshold, electric tolerance, and affective ratings of ischemia, but only during the ovulatory phase. And finally, sensory ratings of ischemia were positively correlated with pain sensitivity but only during the mid-follicular phase. In sum, results show that relationships between gender role expectations and pain can vary across the menstrual cycle. Second, results suggest beliefs about self are more strongly related to pain outcomes than stereotyped expectations of pain. And third, gender role expectations have a stronger relationship to electric pain outcomes and retrospective reports of ischemia.
© 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc.