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

March 9, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - 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.

Researchers for the study, which was published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, polled adults about childhood preferences such as toys and games. According to the survey, the girls who had preferred traditional boy activities and the boys who liked things such as dolls had experienced more abuse from parents and others.

Dr. Maxine Thome counsels young people who are gay, lesbian and transgender.

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

The study found rates of post-traumatic stress disorder to be nearly twice as high among these subjects.

The West Virginia Department of Education has enacted a new policy designed to protect those students against bullying. Two bills to create a religious exemption to the policy failed during the legislative session.

Much more education about gender identity is needed, Thome says, adding that parents and others should avoid the so-called "cookie-cutter" approach to the issue. She tells parents that children who enjoy games or toys associated with the opposite sex are not necessarily gay.

"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."

The study is online at pediatrics.aappublications.org.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV