New studies in the Journal of Sexual Medicine and JAMA Pediatrics have shed new light on gender dysphoria in children and suggest discrepant perceptions among parents and children.
People with gender dysphoria (transgender individuals) identify more closely with a gender other than their biological sex at birth. For example, a person who is genetically male might feel more comfortable living as a female. Some transgender people say they were born in the “wrong” gender. However, very little information is currently available on when these feelings may initially occur.
Referrals to Transgender Clinics
First, a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine discussed the sex ratio of children referred to the Gender Identity Development Service, in the United Kingdom.
Between 2000 and 2017, 1,215 children age 12 or younger were referred to the clinic. Overall, 56% were birth-assigned boys, and 44% were birth-assigned girls.
However, the percentage of birth-assigned boys dropped when the researchers compared two time periods. From 2000 to 2006, 72% of the referred children were birth-assigned boys, but from 2007 to 2017, that number fell to 55%.
Also, the birth-assigned boys tended to be younger when referred, with an average age of 9, compared to the birth-assigned girls, whose average age was 10.
“The sex difference in the age at referral probably reflects, among other things, greater parental worry about marked gender-variant behavior in sons than in daughters (eg, concerns about peer ostracism),” the authors commented.
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The second study, from JAMA Pediatrics, discussed preteens’ and parents’ perceptions of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The researchers examined data from 4,519 children aged 9 and 10 years from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. The children were asked whether they identified as gay or bisexual or as transgender. Parental figures answered questions about how they perceived the child’s identity.
Overall, 6.7% of the parents thought their child might be gay or bisexual, but only 0.86% of all children identified themselves this way.
In addition, 1.2% of the parents thought their child might be transgender, but 0.4% of all children made this identification.
Not all the children understood the questions, however. About 24% said they understood the question about sexual orientation, and 40% understood the question about gender identity.
Lack of understanding might reflect a child’s age and developmental stage, the authors explained. It’s possible that they make such identifications when they are more mature. They might not have received related sex education as well.
Over 95% of the children said that sexual orientation or gender identity did not cause any problems at school or with their family. But 7% of parents saw problems with sexual orientation and 15.3% noted issues with gender identity.
Calzo, Jerel P. PhD, MPH and Aaron J. Blashill, PhD
“Child Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Cohort Study”
(Abstract. September 10, 2018)
The Journal of Sexual Medicine
de Graaf, Nastasja M. MSc, et al.
“Evidence for a Change in the Sex Ratio of Children Referred for Gender Dysphoria: Data From the Gender Identity Development Service in London (2000–2017)”
(Full-text. Published: September 5, 2018)
Medscape Medical News
“New Data on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity in Preteens”
(September 18, 2018)