One percent of children aged 9-10 self-identify as gay, transgender

September 12, 2018, San Diego State University

In a study into the sexual orientation and gender identity development of thousands of youth across the nation, a San Diego State University team found that about 1 percent of 9 and 10-year old children surveyed self-identified as gay, bisexual or transgender.

As the majority of studies indicate that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) self-identification generally occurs during the mid-adolescent years, the study by SDSU researchers Jerel P. Calzo and Aaron J. Blashill is providing unprecedented insight into early identity development.

"This is such an important stage, biologically and socially. At 9 and 10, youth—whether through their peers, media or parents—are beginning to be exposed to more information about relationships and interacting in the world. Even about sex," said lead author Calzo, an associate professor in the SDSU School of Public Health. "They may not see any of this as sexual, but they are beginning to experience strong feelings."

The findings are detailed in "Child Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Cohort Study," co-authored by Calzo and Blashill, an associate professor in the SDSU Department of Psychology. The article appears in the current issue of JAMA Pediatrics.

Calzo and Blashill utilized the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study dataset, a multisite, longitudinal study exploring brain development and health among aged 9 and 10 over a 10-year period, leading to the 1 percent finding for self-identification.

"One percent is sizable, given that they are so young," Blashill said.

"For so long, social scientists have assumed that there is no point in asking kids at this age about their , believing they do not have the cognitive ability to understand," he said. "This is the first study to actually ask children about their sexual this young. It is important to have a baseline to understand how sexuality develops and how it may change over time."

Blashill and Calzo captured data collected in 2016-2017 to investigate identity-related stress and how children self-identified. They also sought to understand how parents perceived their children's sexual and identities.

"What is interesting about this study is that you have children and parents responding," Calzo said. "This is one of the more important implications of the study: there are few, if any studies on such a large scale in the context of health research and at such a young age while involving parents."

Nearly 7 percent of parents, when asked about the sexual identity of their children, reported their child might be gay and 1.2 percent reported that their child might be transgender, the team found.

Another insightful finding was that children overwhelmingly reported no problems at home or school related to their minority sexual orientation or while 7 percent of parents reported gender identity-based problems.

As sexual and gender minorities experience higher rates of physical and mental health issues than do their heterosexual counterparts, the research may provide crucial insights into resiliency development within the LGBT community. It could also help lead to improved programs and policies to better serve the community, Calzo said.

"If we can understand identity development earlier and can track development using large datasets, we can begin improving research and prevention around risk and protective factors," Calzo said, adding that he and Blashill purposefully set out to study sexual identity issues among youth at earlier ages than previous research.

Another key finding is that researchers must identify better ways to explore identity issues among younger populations, as about 24 percent of those surveyed indicated they did not understand questions about sexual orientation, potentially as they were phrased. This will be crucial as researchers seek to explore other issues, such as same-gender attraction and gender expression, in young children.

"ABCD does plan to include more measures and other researchers are studying sexual orientation and gender expression," said Calzo, also a core investigator at the Institute for Behavioral and Community Health. "We know from other studies that these identities can change over time, so this research is powerful. It helps us to understand sexual and gender younger so that we can have a much better understanding of these identities over time."

Explore further: Parental sexual orientation and children's psychological well-being

More information: JAMA Pediatrics (2018). DOI: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.2496

Related Stories

Parental sexual orientation and children's psychological well-being

November 8, 2017
In a Child Development study of 21,103 children aged 4-17 years, those with lesbian and gay parents did not differ from children of heterosexual parents in terms of emotional and mental health difficulties, as assessed on ...

Study reveals which transgender teens have highest suicide risk

September 11, 2018
Research has shown that transgender adolescents are at greater risk for attempting suicide than cisgender teens, who identify with the gender they are assigned at birth. A new study from the University of Arizona takes a ...

Gender minorities less engaged in health-promoting behaviors

September 10, 2018
(HealthDay)—Lesbian and bisexual women and transgender adults have lower participation in health-related behaviors than heterosexual men and women, according to research published in the Aug. 17 issue of the U.S. Centers ...

Just ask: Documenting sexual orientation and gender identity among transgender patients

May 30, 2017
Transgender patients feel it is more important for health care providers to know their gender identity (GI) than their sexual orientation (SI), but are willing to disclose SO/GI in general. That is the primary finding of ...

Parents struggle to discuss sex with LGBTQ teens

April 5, 2018
It's hard enough for parents to have "the talk" about sexual health with their kids, but parents of LGBTQ children feel especially uncomfortable and unequipped when they try to educate them about sex and dating, reports a ...

Should doctors ask patients about their sexual orientation?

August 13, 2018
Asking about patients' sexual orientation is not routine, even among medical professionals who specialize in sexual health.

Recommended for you

China's doctor shortage prompts rush for AI health care

September 20, 2018
Qu Jianguo, 64, had a futuristic medical visit in Shanghai as he put his wrist through an automated pulse-taking machine and received the result within two minutes on a mobile phone—without a doctor present.

Time to ban the sale of energy drinks to children, says senior doctor

September 19, 2018
It's time to bring in laws to ban the sale of caffeinated energy drinks to children and young people in England to tackle the twin epidemics of obesity and mental health problems, argues Professor Russell Viner, President ...

For-profit hospitals correlated with higher readmission rates

September 19, 2018
Patients who receive care in a for-profit hospital are more likely to be readmitted than those who receive care in nonprofit or public hospitals, according to a new study published by University of Illinois at Chicago researchers.

Sugar content of most supermarket yogurts well above recommended threshold

September 18, 2018
A comprehensive survey of ingredients in yogurts highlights high sugar levels in many—particularly organic yogurts and those marketed towards children.

Research confronts 'yucky' attitudes about genetically engineered foods

September 18, 2018
Is a non-browning apple less "natural" than non-fat milk? In one case, people have injected something into apple DNA to prevent it from turning brown after it's cut. In the other, people used technology to remove something ...

Your teen is underestimating the health risks of vaping

September 17, 2018
Teens today are more reluctant to smoke cigarettes than their counterparts nearly three decades ago, according to a study released this summer. But parents should hold their collective sigh of relief. The study, carried out ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.