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Family support critical for transgender youth's mental health, says UW study

A new study by University of Washington researchers published Friday in the journal Pediatrics suggests that support from family members and close relationships are vital to retaining ‘normal’ development in transgender youth.

Contrary to long-held assumptions that transgender youth are predisposed to depression, anxiety, and other mental health and developmental issues, Kristina Olson, a UW assistant professor of psychology, found that such kids with family support had normal levels of depression and anxiety – similar to typical children.

The results of this first-ever look at mental health among transgender children run contrary to previous research, which shows far higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide in transgender youth and adults than in the general population.

Olson, who runs the TransYouth Project at UW, said that study of 73 transgender kids ages 3 to 12 found no higher rates of depression than in two control groups, including their own siblings and non-transgender children in the community. The study, which recruited kids in the U.S. and Canada, included only children who had “socially transitioned,” that is, who were living openly as the opposite gender. And it included only children who were aided in the transition by their families.

Parents of transgender children can be unsure of the best route to take. Although many parents instinctively support their child’s choice and transition, there has previously been no studies or scientific data to support this action. Dr. Johanna Olson, medical director of the Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and unrelated to Kristina Olson, says that these findings are the most significant guidance to-date parents of transgender children.

“I think this is a wonderful, wonderful piece of work,” said Johanna Olson. “It backs up what clinicians, parents, and support groups have known for years, which is that kids who are supported in their authentic gender do very well.”

This article features content originally posted by The Spokesman-Review. See the full story here.

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