Gender differences in physician-patient communication. Evidence from pediatric visits

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997 Jun;151(6):586-91. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170430052011.


Objective: To determine whether physician gender and patient gender influence the process of communication and parent and child satisfaction during pediatric office visits.

Design: Content analysis of videotaped pediatric office visits.

Setting: University-based pediatric primary care practice.

Subjects: Videotaped communication between 212 children, ages 4 to 14 years, parents, and physicians. Thirty-eight percent were child health supervision visits, and 62% were for the management of minor or chronic illnesses.

Main outcome measures: An established coding system of physician-patient communication and measures of parent and child satisfaction with medical care.

Results: Female physician visits were 29% longer than those of male physicians (P < .001). Compared with male physicians, female physicians engaged in more social exchange (P < .01), more encouragement and reassurance (P < .01), more communication during the physical examination (P < .05), and more information gathering (P < .01) with children. Male and female physicians engaged in similar amounts of discussions regarding illness management. Children were more satisfied with physicians of the same gender (P < .05), while parents were more satisfied with female physicians (P < .05).

Conclusions: Children communicate more with female than with male physicians and show preferences for physicians of the same gender. These findings are consistent with communication patterns in adult patients and may have a significant influence on gender disparities in health care. Efforts at improving the process and outcome of medical care should address gender differences.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Health Services / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Office Visits
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sex*
  • Videotape Recording