A landmark new study that found gender confusion among children decreases with age could impact the ongoing debate over gender dysphoria among minors in the United States. The Netherlands study, published in the latest edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior, followed a group of 2,772 teens over 15 years and found that most individuals who were uncomfortable with their gender at age 11 had stopped having those feelings by age 26. 

In the early teen years, 11 percent of participants reported not being content with their gender and answered affirmatively when asked if they wished to be of the opposite sex. But by age 26, only 4 percent of the same group reported not being happy with their gender. The study was conducted by researchers at the Netherlands University of Groningen.The prevalence decreased with age, the authors wrote. … Gender non-contentedness, while being relatively common during early adolescence, in general decreases with age and appears to be associated with a poorer self-concept and mental health throughout development.

A major strength of the study, the authors noted, is that it followed the same group of teens, which allowed us to model developmental trajectories of gender non-contentedness from late childhood through early adulthood.

Furthermore, it was conducted in a combined general population and clinical sample, while most previous studies have reported on gender non-contentedness in samples of adolescents clinically referred for their gender identity problems, often including only a single follow-up assessment, the authors wrote. Our study therefore provides more reliable epidemiological knowledge about the prevalence of gender non-contentedness among adolescents of the general Dutch population and provides new insights into the association with mental health problems.

Girls were more likely than boys to report gender non-contentedness at ages 13 and 16, the study found. A majority of adolescents (78 percent) indicated to never experience any gender non-contentedness, the study said. Mary Rice Hasson, the director of the Person and Identity Project at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told Catholic News Agency that too many parents and counselors are pressuring minors to change their gender. 

Unfortunately, what our children are not being given today is timetime to experience and outgrow the natural (sometimes painful) stages of pubertal growth, along with the reassurance that, with time, they will eventually feel comfortable in their own skin, Hasson said. Instead, gender clinicians and counselors convince parents that their children are in crisis and need puberty blockers or other hormonal interventions. Its not true. What they really need is reassurance and time to mature.

Photo credit: GettyImages/ronniechua

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.