Children who don't act in accordance with a society's gender stereotypes are not just more likely to be bullied; according to a new study, those kids are also at a higher risk of being abused and ending up with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The American study, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics, found that adults who are not comfortable with "gender non-conformity" may treat children differently, including violently.
Andrea Roberts from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and her colleagues, did their research by analyzing another study that looked at 16,000 children. Those participants talked about their favorite toys, behavior, the roles they took on and feelings about gender identity at age 11.
The study subjects were also asked questions about verbal, physical and sexual abuse from early childhood through adolescence. The children who didn't take on typical male or female roles in accordance with their sex were more than twice as likely to report some type of abuse during childhood. They were also then more likely to suffer from PTSD. The second bit is hardly a surprise, because trauma needs to happen for a person to develop PTSD.
The hypothesis? Boys who act like girls are more likely to be abused, because girls are more likely to be abused? This was an American study, so it might also tell us that US society isn't quite as modern and tolerant as many like to think.
Incidentally, another interesting story appeared this week about Zach Avery, a five year old child from Essex, United Kingdom, who was diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder. Zach was born with a penis, but started getting into Dora the Explorer and liked to play with dolls and wear dresses when he was three. Zach lives as a girl now, and was assigned "her" own gender neutral bathroom at his school.
What do we think about that? Does that fall into the category of protecting someone with gender issues, or into the abuse category? Unfortunately, it's very hard to tell.