Trans and Gender-Nonconforming Children and Their Caregivers: Gender Presentations, Peer Relations, and Well-Being at Baseline

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Abstract

This study, involving a community-based sample of 45 predominantly white primary caregivers of 45 trans and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) children between 6 and 12 years of age, provides descriptive data on children’s gender presentations, peer relations, and well-being. Most (n = 31; 69%) of the children were cross-gender identified (CGI). That is, 17 of 28 children assigned male at birth explicitly and consistently identified as girls, and 14 of 17 children assigned female at birth explicitly and consistently identified as boys. The 14 remaining children appeared to have nonbinary gender identities (e.g., “boy-girl”) or to identify with the sex and gender they were assigned at birth but were gender-nonconforming, or their gender identities were uncertain. This subgroup was labeled non-CGI. Most of the children were in the normal range for internalizing (64%), externalizing (67%), and total behavior problems (62%), yet a sizable minority were in the borderline-clinical/clinical range for these symptoms. Children in the CGI group had fewer internalizing and total problems than children in the non-CGI group. Child’s degree of gender conformity, caregiver’s level of anxiety, and child’s peer relations were correlated with children’s well-being; children in the CGI group were reported to have better peer relations than children in the non-CGI group. Caregivers’ rates of depression and anxiety appeared to be similar to normative samples, although anxiety may have been slightly elevated. Findings from this study add to a small but growing body of literature that documents the well-being of TGNC children growing up in supportive and affirming familial environments.

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