Transgender young children who are allowed to live openly in their gender identity are no more likely to have depression than other children and only slightly more prone to anxiety symptoms, a small study has shown.
The common denominator seems to be support and acceptance among their family and community, the researchers report in the journal Pediatrics. The findings are reassuring after others studies have said that transgender individuals in the United States often had high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide, as reported by NBC News.
“The thinking has always been that kids who are not acting gender-stereotypically are basically destined to have mental health problems,” said Kristina Olson of the University of Washington, who led the study. The study has shown that this is not the case, Olson added.
For research, Olson and colleagues analyzed 73 transgender children ages 3 to 12 who live openly their gender identity, on average 8 years old and not yet gone through puberty, plus 49 of their siblings and a control group of 73 non-transgender kids who were similar in age and gender identity.
Their parents were asked whether their children had experience symptoms of depression or anxiety during the past week. On a scale of 0 to 100, 50 representing the national average, transgender kids had average depression scores of about 50, compared with 48 for the control group and 49 for the siblings. Those differences were not considered statistically meaningful.
When it came to anxiety, results were slightly different. The transgender kids had average scores of about 54, compared with 51 for the control group and 52 for the siblings. This difference was in fact statistically meaningful but the scores from transgender kids were still below the range in which doctors typically diagnose anxiety or recommend treatment for the condition.
Acceptance, hope for happiness?
Olson noted that the study is small and cannot actually prove that social transitioning improves mental health. It is also possible that the family’s support on the transition might have influenced the results, which can be reassuring. Transgender children from less accepting families might have higher levels of depression and anxiety, the lead author added.
Dr. Illana Sherer, author of an accompanying editorial and founding member of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center at the University of California, has assured that she has been seeing more and more kids who were absolutely thriving and happy, especially as communities and families become more aware of the importance of accepting and supporting them as they are.
For transgender children to thrive parents need to allow kids to socially transition at school and everywhere else they go, Sherer added in an email to Fox News.
“I do not think the outcomes would be as positive if kids only socially transitioned at home,” Sherer said.
Source: Fox News