This set of modules will consider individual group differences that can occur in the experience of pain. They will illustrate how an individual difference approach can not only help understand the variation in pain that occurs between individuals, but also how such an approach can be used to explore and better understand the psychosocial mechanisms and processes that impact on pain. By better identifying why such variation in pain occurs, it should be possible to design and develop better ways of helping people to manage their pain.
Module 1: Introduction to subgroups. This module will introduce the concept of individual differences and how they relate to pain. It will consider what is meant by subgroups and provide examples of some known individual differences in pain. The focus will be on sociodemographic factors, and how pain assessment methods play a central role in understanding this variation. It will be argued that an exploration of individual differences can generate useful questions about why variation in pain occurs, including the role that psychosocial mechanisms play. Implications are also considered.
Module 2: Focus on sex and gender differences. This module will illustrate the themes developed in module 1 by focusing on the variation in pain that seems to occur between men and women. It will start with definitions of sex and gender, and critically evaluate the evidence for the variation that occurs in the way men and women perceive and experience pain. It will be shown how this evidence to support this view reflects different measurement techniques, from experimental pain inductions methods, through to clinical self-report and treatment-outcomes studies.
Module 3: Gender approaches to pain. This module will show how an individual difference approach to men and women’s pain, can be developed to enable a wider understanding of the psychosocial factors that can impact on pain. Whilst an individual difference approach often focuses initially on between-group differences, it can also be used to consider within-group variation. This will be illustrated by focusing on gender, and how a gender approach to pain can also help us better understand the psychosocial processes that play a role. Examples, such as gender role expectations and beliefs, as well as the role of situational factors are provided.
Module 4: Implications of taking an individual differences approach to pain. The final module will consider the implications of taking an individual group differences approach to pain. It will illustrate this using two examples. The first will show how such an approach can help better understand the biopsychosocial mechanisms of pain. The second example will consider the way such an approach helps to highlight health inequalities. Whilst examples will again focus on sex and gender, it will also note the wider application to other groups and consider interactions with other subgroups. General implications for research and clinical practice will be considered.