The sociocultural context of adolescent pain: portrayals of pain in popular adolescent media

Allison Cormier, Kendra Mueri, Maria Pavlova, Anna Hood, Queenie Li, Idia Thurston, Abbie Jordan, Melanie Noel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has consistently suggested that media consumption plays a vital role in children’s socialization, including the socialization of painful experiences. Past research examining young children’s popular media revealed worrisome trends in media depictions of pain; it consisted of narrow depictions of pain, gender stereotypes, and an overwhelming lack of empathy from observers, which could contribute to pain-related stigma. Research has not yet examined how pain is portrayed in adolescent media, despite adolescence being the developmental period when chronic pain often emerges. The current study extracted a cross-section of popular adolescent media selected based on popularity, including ten movies and the first seasons of six television shows. Pain instances were coded using two established observational coding schemes assessing sufferer pain characteristics and observer responses. Across 616 instances of pain, there was a preponderance of violence and injuries, whereas everyday, chronic-type, and medical/procedural pains were seldom represented. Individuals from marginalized (i.e., gender diverse, girls) and minoritized (i.e., individuals with racialized identities) groups were underrepresented in pain instances. Further, regardless of observed gender and/or “race”, observers displayed a lack of empathy for sufferers and rarely engaged in prosocial behaviours. Popular media may serve as an agent of socialization in adolescence; thus, pain depictions may be a powerful force in propagating pain-related stigma and inequities. An opportunity exists to harness popular media to adaptively and accurately portray pain to adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date27 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.


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