Part of what students learn when they receive a psychology degree online is the ever-present role of gender stereotyping. However, sometimes non-conforming gender behaviors can have extremely negative and dangerous consequences for children. Gender-variant children are at an increased risk of abuse, according to a new Harvard School of Public Health study.
One in 10 children displayed gender non-conformity in interests, activity choices and pretend play before age 11 and, on average, were more likely to experience physical, psychological and sexual abuse, and post-traumatic stress disorder by early adulthood.
Abuse was mostly perpetrated by parents or other adults in the home.
The increased risk for non-conforming kids versus conforming kids was similar in both sexes for physical and psychological abuse. For sexual abuse, non-conforming girls were at 60 percent greater risk than conforming girls, but non-conforming boys were at nearly three times greater risk compared with conforming boys
Eighty-five percent of gender-non-conforming children in the study were heterosexual in adulthood.
The study focused on behaviors in childhood before age 11. At that stage, children often “exhibit a wide variety of behaviors that mean nothing about their future sexual preferences,” Andrea Roberts, lead author of the study, said to USA Today. But in childhood, those who were not “extremely typical in their gender expression” faced “harmful discrimination and intolerance that has a lasting impact.”