Children with gender identity disorder are at serious psychiatric risk

(Medical Xpress) -- The first study to characterize a cohort of U.S. children with diagnosed gender identity disorder, led by researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston, documents significant mental health risks as children struggle with strong feelings of being born “in the wrong body.” Findings appear in the March 2012 Pediatrics (published online February 20).

The study, led by endocrinologist Norman Spack, MD, at ’s Boston, in collaboration with attending psychiatrist Scott Leibowitz, MD, reviewed the charts of 97 consecutive patients who were seen at the hospital from 1998 through early 2010 and met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) for gender identity disorder: a strong, persistent identification as being of the opposite sex (transgendered) and significant distress and discomfort with one’s biological sex.

Of these patients, who first came to Children’s Hospital Boston at an average age of 14.8 years, 44 percent had a history of psychiatric symptoms, 37 percent were taking psychotropic medications, 21 percent had a history of self-mutilation and 9 percent had attempted suicide.

Fifty-eight percent received a medical intervention. This consisted of opposite-sex hormones (to develop a physical appearance closer to the affirmed gender) for the majority who were in later stages of puberty, and puberty-suppressing drugs for the few children still in early puberty.

Spack and colleagues call for further research to assess these adolescents’ psychological well-being after both kinds of treatment. They urge early evaluation for children who show persistent gender-related issues, including consultation with mental health professionals and consideration of medical treatment when patients near puberty.  Anecdotally, children who receive interventions early do better psychologically.

“Just coming to our clinic for an initial visit was associated with a markedly reduced motivation to self-harm,” Spack notes.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sex-changing treatment for kids: It's on the rise

Feb 20, 2012

(AP) -- A small but growing number of teens and even younger children who think they were born the wrong sex are getting support from parents and from doctors who give them sex-changing treatments, according ...

Eye divergence in children triples risk of mental illness

Nov 26, 2008

Children whose eyes are misaligned and point outward are at significantly increased risk of developing mental illness by early adulthood, according to findings of a Mayo Clinic study published this month in Pediatrics, the of ...

New tool enhances view of muscles

Jan 23, 2012

Simon Fraser University associate professor James Wakeling is adding to the arsenal of increasingly sophisticated medical imaging tools with a new signal-processing method for viewing muscle activation details that have never ...

Recommended for you

Could summer camp be the key to world peace?

14 hours ago

According to findings from a new study by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Jane Risen, and Chicago Booth doctoral student Juliana Schroeder, it may at least be a start.

Gender disparities in cognition will not diminish

Jul 28, 2014

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, investigated the extent to which improvements in living conditions and educational opportunities over a person's life affect cognitive abilities and th ...

Facial features are the key to first impressions

Jul 28, 2014

A new study by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of York shows that it is possible to accurately predict first impressions using measurements of physical features in everyday images of faces, such ...

User comments