Gender non-conformity in childhood and adolescence and mental health through to adulthood: a longitudinal cohort study, 1995-2018

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BackgroundFew studies have examined associations between gender non-conformity (GNC) in childhood or adolescence and mental health outcomes later in life. This study examined associations between (1) GNC and mental health over multiple time points in childhood and adolescence, and (2) GNC in childhood and/or adolescence and mental health in adulthood. MethodSecond generation participants from the Raine Study, a longitudinal cohort from Perth, Western Australia. Data were collected between 1995 and 2018, comprising seven waves: ages 5 (N = 2236), 8 (N = 2140), 10 (N = 2048), 14 (N = 1864), 17 (N = 1726), 22 (N = 1236) and 27 (N = 1190) years. History of GNC, v. absence of this history, was based on responses to item 110 from the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL)/Youth Self Report (YSR) ('wishes to be of opposite sex'). The CBCL/YSR were used to measure internalising and externalising symptoms. Items 18 ('deliberate self-harm [DSH] or attempts suicide') and 91 ('talks/thinks about killing self') were used as measures of suicidal ideation (SI) and DSH. For adults, Depression, Anxiety and Stress Subscales and Kessler Psychological Distress Scale assessed mental health. ResultsChild and adolescent GNC was associated with elevated internalising and externalising behaviours and increased odds of DSH. A history of GNC was also associated with vulnerability for severe psychological distress in adulthood in some symptom scales. ConclusionGNC over the child and adolescent period is associated with significant emotional and behavioural difficulties, and psychological distress. A history of GNC in childhood and/or adolescence also predicts poorer mental health in adulthood on multiple symptom domains.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberPII S0033291723001721
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Medicine
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Jul 2023

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