A federal grant has been provided to National Science Foundation, Alan. T Waterman award winning psychologist Kristina Olson, who will use her five year 1 million dollar grant to expand a study on transgender children. Olson is looking to study transgender children as young as three.
In a mission statement given by the study it is outlined “Our research lab is conducting several studies about gender development in childhood. The TransYouth Project is our largest project and is the first large-scale, national, longitudinal study of socially-transitioned transgender children to date. We are following a cohort of about 300 children from 45 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces for 20 years.”
“In addition to that project, we are recruiting new families for new studies on gender development both in the Seattle region and nationally. Right now we are recruiting children who are gender nonconforming, tomboys, princess boys, intersex, and gender ‘typical’ children.”
The study aims to expand upon previous work looking at the process of gender transition, with additional resources being allocated to look at the effect of race and inequality within the Trans community.
Notable findings within the previous study include that anxiety and depression rates among transgender children, inside a test group of 73 children, found that the transgender children had numbers “no higher” than the cisgender children. Olson identified family support as one of the key defining features which determines the likelihood of mental health problems.
Opponents and skeptics of the study, including the director of policy studies at Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission Andrew Walker, a father of two children, find the study worrying. In regard to the study involving children as young as three Walker stated, “I am highly suspect of allowing children to be mature agents in determining this level of self-understanding,” Walker said. “That seems to be highly problematic and borderline reckless… putting drastically catastrophic decisions about a child’s life in the child’s hands.”
Walker also debated the appropriateness of investing federal funds in what he described as “ultimately an ideological, contestable issue — the notion of gender fluidity.”
In response to these claims, Olson explained that children even at the age of three are able to recognize gender identity and who they want to be as a person, adding that it is shown through their choice of clothing, what toys they wish to play with, and who they prefer to play with.
Olson wrote, “People frequently compare early-identifying trans children with those who go through phases of believing they are cats or dinosaurs or who have imaginary friends. Yet decades of work on gender development suggests these are precisely the ages at which nearly all kids are coming to understand their own and others’ gender identities.”
If any students are interested in participating or have more questions about the study or how they could get involved in the project the researchers can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and their website for the project is: depts.washington.edu/scdlab/research/transyouth-project-gender-development/