Mental Health and Self-Worth in Socially Transitioned Transgender Youth

Lily Durwood, Katie A. McLaughlin, Kristina R. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective Social transitions are increasingly common for transgender children. A social transition involves a child presenting to other people as a member of the “opposite” gender in all contexts (e.g., wearing clothes and using pronouns of that gender). Little is known about the well-being of socially transitioned transgender children. This study examined self-reported depression, anxiety, and self-worth in socially transitioned transgender children compared with 2 control groups: age- and gender-matched controls and siblings of transgender children. Method As part of a longitudinal study (TransYouth Project), children (9–14 years old) and their parents completed measurements of depression and anxiety (n = 63 transgender children, n = 63 controls, n = 38 siblings). Children (6–14 years old; n = 116 transgender children, n = 122 controls, n = 72 siblings) also reported on their self-worth. Mental health and self-worth were compared across groups. Results Transgender children reported depression and self-worth that did not differ from their matched-control or sibling peers (p =.311), and they reported marginally higher anxiety (p =.076). Compared with national averages, transgender children showed typical rates of depression (p =.290) and marginally higher rates of anxiety (p =.096). Parents similarly reported that their transgender children experienced more anxiety than children in the control groups (p =.002) and rated their transgender children as having equivalent levels of depression (p =.728). Conclusion These findings are in striking contrast to previous work with gender-nonconforming children who had not socially transitioned, which found very high rates of depression and anxiety. These findings lessen concerns from previous work that parents of socially transitioned children could be systematically underreporting mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)116-123.e2
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Volume56
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Keywords

  • gender nonconformity
  • mental health
  • self-worth
  • social transitions
  • transgender children

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