(RxWiki News) Children who are interested in activities not typical of their gender are more likely to face abuse. One in ten children is affected, and sadly, in most cases the child is abused by his or her own parents.
Children under the age of 11 whose interests, activity choices, and toys fall outside of those typical for their gender will face increased risk of abuse - physical, psychological, and sexual. Abused children are also likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which has lasting health implications through adulthood.
"Always call the police if you suspect abuse."
Andrea Roberts, Ph.D., a research associate in the Department of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, led the study.
"The abuse we examined was mostly perpetrated by parents or other adults in the home. Parents need to be aware that discrimination against gender nonconformity affects one in ten kids, affects kids at a very young age, and has lasting impacts on health," said Roberts.
According to the study, the lasting impacts come mostly in the form of PTSD, which tends to lead to poor life choices and risky decision making. The implications of PTSD later in life are very serious, and parents must understand 10% of all children are affected.
In the study, 9000 young adults were asked to recall childhood experiences, like favorite games, characters, and activities. They were also asked about abuse and screened for PTSD.
Men in the top 10th percentile of gender non-conformity reported significantly higher instances of sexual and physical abuse before the age of 11, and higher instances of psychological abuse between ages 11 and 17.
Women in the top 10th percentile reported more abuse of all forms while under the age of 11. In both cases, adults from the top 10th percentile were more than twice as likely to show signs of PTSD.
Interestingly, 85% of children who are non-conforming are heterosexual in adulthood. “Most of the intolerance toward gender nonconformity in children is targeted toward heterosexuals,” adds Roberts.
While more research is necessary in order to develop intervention programs, the researchers suggest that pediatricians and schools conduct abuse screenings in order to help and protect these children.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Health and was published online February 20, 2012. It will appear in the March 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics.