Few transgender children change their minds after 5 years, according to a study

In the decades since that job, society’s acceptance of gender diversity has grown, medical practice has changed, and the number of transgender children has increased significantly.

For these reasons, it makes no sense to compare the new study with previous research, said Russ Toomey, a professor of family studies and human development at the University of Arizona.

“It’s really comparing apples to oranges,” said Dr. Toomey said. Many of the children in the previous studies were effeminate teens whose parents were upset by their behavior, they said. “Many of these guys in these early studies that are often cited have never even labeled themselves or labeled themselves as transgender.”

The new study could suggest that transgender children, if supported by their parents, thrive in their identities. But it is also possible that some of the children still identified as transgender at the end of the study – or their parents – felt the pressure to continue the path they had started.

“I think, depending on your perspective, people are likely to interpret this data differently,” said Amy Tishelman, a clinical psychologist at Boston College and lead author of the World Professional Association of Transgender Health’s chapter on standards of care for children.

“Some people may say that babies follow this developmental trajectory and can’t get off and that medical interventions could be irreversible and they might regret it,” he said. “Other people will say that children know their gender and when they are supported in their gender, they are happy.”

While most doctors agree that social transitions can be beneficial for some children who question their assigned gender, Dr. Tishelman said, it’s also important to support those who change their minds. “It’s really very important that children can continue to feel like it’s okay to be fluid, to keep exploring,” she said.