Kids Who Don’t Conform to Gender Roles Have Increased Risk of PTSD and Abuse


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Breaking gender roles increases the risk of PTSD and abuse in children: Photo by Peter Rimar

One out of every ten children in America exhibits behavior that is considered gender-nonconforming. A gender-nonconforming youth is defined as a child who engages in activities or behaviors which society states are only acceptable for the other gender. Common examples of this phenomenon include young boys playing with dolls, or young girls playing tackle football.

With 10 percent of the youth population considered nonconforming to gender stereotypes, there are nearly 30 million Americans who did not conform to common gender stereotypes as children or teenagers.

Increased Risk Of Abuse

According to recent research by Dr. Andrea Roberts, from the Harvard School of Public Health, the risks of abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are increased in children displaying cross-gender norms. In a longitudinal study of 9,000 adults in the Boston area, Dr. Roberts examined children who rated themselves as gender nonconforming in their youth. Amongst the respondents, the top ten percent of men and women experiencing nonconformity with gender roles experienced greater than average instances of sexual and physical abuse, resulting in PTSD later in life.

Men who did not conform to accepted gender roles had a higher rate of reported abuse than nonconforming women. The rate of PTSD in youth who did not follow gender stereotypes was double the average occurrence in kids who did follow gender stereotypes.

These findings are possibly attributed to the social norms of male children. More research into children who do not conform to common gender roles is important, if society wants to fully understand the problems faced later in life by gender nonconforming individuals.

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