Socially transitioned transgender children who are supported in their gender identity had developmentally normative levels of depression and slightly increased levels of anxiety, compared with nontransgender peers.
“There is now growing evidence that social support is linked to better mental health outcomes among transgender adolescents and adults. These findings suggest the possibility that social transitions in children, a form of affirmation and support by a prepubescent child’s parents, could be associated with good mental health outcomes in transgender children,” Kristina R. Olson, PhD, of University of Washington, Seattle, and colleagues wrote.
To assess mental health among transgender children who have socially transitioned, or identify as the opposite gender and are supported to live openly as that gender, researchers evaluated a community-based sample of transgender, prepubescent children (n = 73) and nontransgender children (n = 73), aged 3 to 12 years. Parents completed anxiety and depression measures.
Compared with population averages, depression symptoms were not significantly higher in transgender children, though anxiety was slightly elevated (P < .001).
There were no differences in depression symptoms between transgender children and controls. However, anxiety symptoms were marginally higher among transgender children (P = .057).
“Olson and colleagues give supporters of social transition evidence that shows what we have suspected all along: that socially transitioned children are doing fine, or at least as well as their age-matched peers and siblings,” Ilana Sherer, MD, of the Benioff Children's Hospital, University of California, San Francisco, wrote in an accompanying editorial. “While there is obviously more research needed to determine if providers should recommend social transition as a beneficial intervention, for families who have already chosen this avenue for their children, professionals should have no concern over supporting the family’s (or mental health team’s) decision, and reassuring the parents that social transition should have little negative impact on their child’s mental health.” – by Amanda Oldt
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.