Young transgender children allowed to live openly as the gender they identify with are doing psychologically as well as other kids, new research performed by the University of Washington shows. Rates of depression and anxiety were equal in the study, which compared 73 transgender kids aged 3 to 12 with 73 nontransgender children. The trans kids fared as well as a group of their nontransgender siblings.
Rates of anxiety among trans kids were slightly higher than national averages for children of the same age, but otherwise they matched national norms. The findings challenge long-held assumptions that mental health problems in transgender children are inevitable, or even that being transgender is itself a type of mental disorder.
“The thinking has always been that kids who are not acting gender-stereotypically are basically destined to have mental health problems,” Olson, an assistant professor reported to UW Today. “In our study, that’s not the case.”
Co-author Katie McLaughlin, a UW assistant professor of psychology, called the findings “incredibly promising.”
“They suggest that mental health problems are not inevitable in this group, and that family support might buffer these children from the onset of mental health problems so commonly observed in transgender people,” she said.
The study is part of the TransYouth Project. The initiative is the first large-scale, study of transgender children in the U.S. It currently involves more than 150 transgender children and families from about 25 states, and Olson is recruiting additional participants. The project’s initial study, published in 2015, found that transgender children’s gender identities were as deeply rooted as those of their non-trans peers.