Supportive Environments Lead To Positive Mental Health In Transgender Children

June 30, 2023; Unhurry Expert Research Team

 The mental health of transgender Americans has been a subject of intense scrutiny in recent years. Studies have consistently shown higher rates of depression and anxiety, as well as suicide.

There is little information about the mental health and well-being of the growing number of transgender Americans, including prepubescents who live openly in their transgender identity with the support of families.

How do these children cope in an open and supportive environment?

A new study from the University of Washington suggests that yes. The study, which will be published in Pediatrics on February 26th, is the first of its kind to examine the mental health and well-being of transgender kids who have “socially transformed” by changing their pronouns, names, clothes and hairstyles.

Are they happy when their gender identity has been affirmed?

In the research, it was found that the rates of depression and anxiousness among 73 children aged 3 to 12 were no higher than those of two control groups – their siblings and another group of children of similar age and gender. Their rates of anxiety and depression were also significantly lower than previous studies of children who did not conform to gender norms.

Lead author Kristina Ollson said that the findings challenge long-held beliefs that mental health issues in transgender kids are inevitable or that even being transgender itself is a mental disorder.

“The thinking has always been that kids who are not acting gender-stereotypically are basically destined to have mental health problems,” said Olson, a UW assistant professor of psychology. In our study, this is not the case.

Katie McLaughlin is a UW assistant psychology professor and co-author of the study. She called it “incredibly promising.”

She said that the studies suggest that mental illness is not a given in this group and that support from family members could protect these children against mental illnesses that are so common in transgender individuals.

Parents were asked to complete two short questionnaires under the National Institutes of Health Patient-Reported Measurement Information Systems. In the surveys, parents were asked if their children showed signs of anxiety or depression in the last week – for instance, feeling worried or sad before bedtime.

In the research, the average depression score for transgender children was 50.1, which is almost identical to the 50-point national norm. Their anxiety levels were 54.2 which is only a little higher than the norm.

Olson explained that the higher anxiety levels are not surprising. Even though transgender children have become more visible in mainstream media, the 15-year old Jazz Jennings is featured in a new documentary, their reality is still not well understood.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely used by mental health professionals, has classified transgender individuals under “gender identity disorders” for many years. After much debate, the term “gender identity disorder” was replaced by “gender dysphoria”.

Olson stated that it is difficult to be transgender today in 2016. “If peers are aware that a child has transgender characteristics, they will often tease them. Transgender children worry about being discovered if their peers are unaware. “Given the current state of transgender kids, it’s not surprising to see them feel more anxious.”

 Researchers acknowledge that positive mental health in study participants may be due to factors other than parental support. Parents may be biased when reporting their children’s health, as they want them to look healthier than they really are. Or, the children may have certain personality traits such as confidence that are associated with a healthy emotional condition. Future studies will explore these possibilities.

Olson is the leader of TransYouth Project. This is the first longitudinal, large-scale study of transgender kids in the U.S. Olson is currently recruiting more participants. It involves over 150 transgender families and children from around 25 states. In the initial project study published in 2015 it was found that the gender identities of transgender children were just as firmly rooted as their non-trans peers.

 Researchers will next examine how factors other than family, like treatment by peers, can predict mental health of transgender kids, as well as whether age of transition has an impact.

 McLaughlin stated that it is important to track these children’s development, especially during their transition into adolescence. This will help to identify patterns of positive mental health for transgender teens who have the support of their families.

 Olson stated that while there’s still much to learn about transgender kids, the findings of the study suggest they can live happier lives than other generations of transgenders.

She said, “I believe they are proof that a young child can be transgender today and still be healthy, happy and do just as well as other kids.” It’s good news that I haven’t heard much about in the past.

Help is here:

Toll-Free Mental Health Rehabilitation Helpline Kiran (1800-599-0019)

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

K. R. Olson, L. Durwood, M. DeMeules, K. A. McLaughlin. Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities. PEDIATRICS, 2016; 137 (3): 1 DOI: 10.1542/peds.2015-3223

Page Citation

University of Washington. “Transgender children supported in their identities show positive mental health.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2016. <>.

Name of the Organisation: Vandrevala Foundation

Vandrevala Foundation is a non-profit that partners with organizations to help communities thrive by providing education and healthcare. Vandrevala Foundation launched a mental health helpline in India in 2009 to offer free psychological counselling and crisis mediation to anyone who is experiencing distress due to depression, trauma, mood disorders, chronic illness, and relationship conflict.


Contact: Email:

Telephone: +91 9999 666 555

Leave a Reply