Friday, February 26, 2016

Young Transgender Children With Family Support Show No Rise in Depression

Young children who identify as transgender and are supported by their families are no more likely to have symptoms of depression and only marginally elevated levels of anxiety than nontransgender children in the same age range, said researchers from the University of Washington.

“These data suggest at least the possibility that being transgender is not synonymous with, nor the direct result of, psychopathology in childhood,” wrote Kristina Olson, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues, in an article published online today in the March Pediatrics.

The researchers used a community-based sample of 73 prepubescent children aged 3 to 12 “who persistently, insistently, and consistently identify as the gender identity that is the ‘opposite’ of their natal sex.” These children were socially transitioned—using the names, personal pronouns, hair length, and clothing associated with their affirmed gender. Social transition is a reversible, nonmedical intervention. About 70 percent were non-Hispanic white children, and 85 percent came from families with incomes above $75,000.

Depression and anxiety symptoms were reported by the parents. Transgender children’s symptoms of depression were not greater than those of the population average. Anxiety symptoms were slightly above national averages but still lower than preclinical or clinical thresholds.

“[T]his finding is crucially important to professionals who work with these children, as well as their families, in showing us that they are not likely to suffer any additional harm and may benefit from early social transition,” wrote pediatrician Ilana Sherer, M.D., of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Dublin, Calif., in an accompanying commentary.

For more in Psychiatric News about transgender youth, see “SAMHSA Report Calls for End to‘Conversion’ Therapy for Youth.”

(Image: istock/PeopleImages)