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Parents of trans, gender diverse youth not always aware of their mental health

Parents of trans and gender diverse youth were less likely to report symptoms as severe as those reported by their child.

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Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) youth patients reported more severe depression and anxiety symptoms compared with parent informants. This means that parents of TGD youth patients do not accurately detect their child’s anxiety symptoms despite moderate agreement on depression symptoms.

This is according to a study – “Differences in Patient and Parent Informant Reports of Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in a Clinical Sample of Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth” by F. Hunter McGuire, Alexandra Carl, Lindsay Woodcock, Lauren Frey, Emily Dake, Derrick D. Matthews, Kristen J. Russell, and Deanna Adkins – that appeared in LGBT Health.

As it is, “TGD youth are at increased risk of depression and anxiety disorders compared with cisgender youth,” the researchers noted, stating that prevalence estimates among TGD youth range from 47% to 79% for depression symptoms and from 12% to 63% for anxiety symptoms.

Here, “parents play a key role in accessing health care services for their children.”

To check if the parents know what TGD youth patients go through, the researchers tapped a total of 259 patient–parent dyads at a pediatric gender clinic in the southeast US who were aged 8 to 22 at their first visit. All patients who initiated care from 2015 to 2020 were eligible to be included.

The researchers found that:

  • Half had moderate-to-severe depression (51.2%) or anxiety (47.9%) symptoms
  • There was a moderate, positive correlation between patient-reported and parent-reported depression symptoms, with no correlation for anxiety symptoms
  • Informant type differences were statistically significant (patients reporting greater depression and anxiety symptoms)

“Parents of TGD youth were less likely to report symptoms as severe as those reported by their child,” noted the researchers, who added that discrepancies may arise from general difficulties classifying others’ mental health status, parent–child closeness may be strained following a child’s gender disclosure, or parents may be emotionally detached and struggle to cope with their TGD children’s identities.

For the researchers: “Given parents’ role in consent for GAHT for pediatric patients, discrepancies may highlight a need for interventions that increase parental recognition of child mental health status.”

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