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Study: Girls and Boys Who Act Like the Opposite Sex at Risk of Abuse

March 5, 2012

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Boys who act like girls and girls who act like boys are at risk of abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a new study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The researchers polled adults about childhood preferences such as toys and games and found that the girls who had preferred traditional boy activities and the boys who liked things like dolls had experienced more abuse from parents and others.

Maxine Thome, Ph.D., LMSW, counsels young people who are gay, lesbian and transgender.

"I can tell you that the internal struggle for people clearly indicates that gender identity is not a choice. That's why so many people struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation."

The study suggests that schools and doctors screen for abuse in such children. Thome says there needs to be much more education around gender identity so that children who are different will be kept safe rather than forced to conform.

Parents and others should avoid the so-called "cookie-cutter" approach to gender identity, Thome says, adding that children who enjoy games or toys associated with the opposite sex are not necessarily homosexual. Trying to change them can be very harmful, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual, she warns.

"Systems need to be structured in a way to help that child or individual continue to identify as they wish to identify but to protect them and to educate those around them."

Education and meaningful legislation could go a long way in protecting children, Thome says.

"Anti-bullying laws need to be stronger and need to spell out the populations that are at risk for bullying."

A trio of bills to strengthen Arizona's anti-bullying laws are making little progress in the legislature.

The study found rates of post-traumatic stress disorder to be nearly twice as high in adults who as children had not conformed to traditional gender roles, than in those who had.

The study results are available at http://tinyurl.com/7p92ps2.


Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ