Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Atypicality, and Indicators of Depression and Anxiety in Childhood and Adulthood
- 893 Downloads
The current study evaluated the possibility that greater negative mental health outcomes reported among gay, lesbian, and gender-atypical individuals, compared to gender-typical individuals, are present in childhood and persist into adulthood. Sex and sexual orientation differences in self-reported adulthood and recalled childhood indicators of depression and anxiety and their association with current and retrospectively reported gender (a)typicality were examined in a non-clinically recruited community sample of Canadian heterosexual men (n = 98), heterosexual women (n = 142), gay men (n = 289), and lesbian women (n = 69). Indicators of depression and anxiety were constructed based on diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, major depression, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and specific phobias. Factor reduction analyses yielded three factors: (1) indicators of childhood separation anxiety, (2) indicators of childhood depression and anxiety, and (3) indicators of adulthood depression and anxiety. Lesbian women scored higher on childhood separation anxiety than all other groups. Heterosexual men scored lower on indicators of childhood separation anxiety than gay men and lower on indicators of childhood and adulthood depression and anxiety than all other groups. No other significant group differences were observed. Correlational analysis suggested that for men, but not for women, gender-atypical behavior was associated with negative mental health. The current study indicated that childhood should be considered a critical time period during which the noted sexual orientation-related mental health discrepancies manifest and that childhood gender atypicality is a key factor for understanding the emergence of such discrepancies.
KeywordsSex differences Sexual orientation Depression and anxiety Separation anxiety Gender atypicality Mental health
We thank all of the individuals who agreed to participate in our study. Various stages of this research were supported by the University of Lethbridge; by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Masters Scholarship and a Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group Research Grant to LJP; by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Postdoctoral Fellowship to DPV; and by a CIHR Catalyst Grant (Methods and Measures for Gender, Sex, and Health; Grant Number: 45546), a SSHRC Insight Grant (Grant Number: 41140), and an Alberta Innovates Health Solutions Sustainability Fund Grant (Grant Number: 43528) to PLV. LJP declares that she has no conflict of interest. DPV declares that he has no conflict of interest. PLV declares that he has no conflict of interest.
The University of Lethbridge Human Subjects Research Committee approved this research. Participants were required to provide informed consent prior to taking part in this study.
- Alanko, K., Santtila, P., Writting, K., Varjonen, M., Jern, P., Johansson, A., … Sandnabba, K. N. (2009). Psychiatric symptoms and same-sex sexual attraction and behavior in light of childhood gender atypical behavior and parental relationships. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 494–504. doi: 10.1080/00224490902846487.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
- Bartlett, M. S. (1954). A note on the multiplying factors for various Chi square approximations. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B, 16, 296–298.Google Scholar
- Chapman, D. P., Dube, S. R., & Anda, R. F. (2007). Adverse childhood events as risk factors for negative mental health outcomes. Psychiatric Annals, 37, 359–364.Google Scholar
- Cochran, S. D., Sullivan, J. G., & Mays, V. M. (2003). Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 53–61. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.71.1.53.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Cohen-Kettenis, P. T., Owen, A., Kaijser, V. G., Bradley, S. J., & Zucker, K. J. (2003). Demographic characteristics, social competence, and behavior problems in children with gender identity disorder: A cross-national, cross-clinic comparative analysis. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 31, 41–53.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Davidson, G., Shannon, C., Mulholland, C., & Campbell, J. (2009). A longitudinal study of the effects of childhood trauma on symptoms and functioning of people with severe mental health problems. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 10, 57–68. doi: 10.1080/15299730802485169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Gilman, S. E., Cochran, S. D., Mays, V. M., Hughes, M., Ostrow, D., & Kessler, R. C. (2001). Risk of psychiatric disorders among individuals reporting same-sex sexual partners in the national comorbidity survey. American Journal of Public Health, 9, 933–939.Google Scholar
- Green, R. (1987). The “sissy boy syndrome” and the development of homosexuality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Harry, J. (1983). Parasuicide, gender, and gender deviance. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 350–361. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2136401.
- Johnson, L. L., Bradley, S. J., Birkenfeld-Adams, A. S., Radzins Kuksis, M. A., Maing, D. M., Mitchell, J. N., & Zucker, K. J. (2004). A parent-report Gender Identity Questionnaire for Children. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 33, 105–116. doi: 10.1023/B:ASEB.0000014325.68094.f3.
- Kerr, D. L., Santurri, L., & Peters, P. (2013). A comparison of lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual college undergraduate women on selected mental health issues. Journal of American College Health, 61, 185–194. doi: 10.1080/07448481.2013.787619.
- King, M., Semlyen, J., See Tai, S., Killaspy, H., Osborn, D., Popelyuk, D., & Nazareth, I. (2008). A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self harm in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. BMC Psychiatry, 8, 1–17. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-8-70.
- Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders Co.Google Scholar
- Rivers, I. (2001). The bullying of sexual minorities at school: Its nature and long-term correlates. Educational and Child Psychology, 18, 32–46.Google Scholar
- Sandfort, T. G. M., de Graaf, R., Bijl, R. V., & Schnabel, P. (2001). Same-sex sexual behavior and psychiatric disorders: Findings from the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study (NEMESIS). Archives of General Psychiatry, 58, 85–91. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.58.1.85.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Singh, D. (2012). A follow-up study of boys with gender identity disorder. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of TorontoGoogle Scholar
- Springer, K. W., Sheridan, J., Kuo, D., & Carnes, M. (2007). Long-term physical and mental health consequences of childhood physical abuse: Results from a large population-based sample of men and women. Child Abuse and Neglect, 31, 517–530. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.01.003.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Steensma, T. D., Zucker, K. J., Kreukels, B. P. C., VanderLaan, D. P., Wood, H., Fuentes, A., & Cohen-Kettenis, P. T. (2014). Behavioral and emotional problems on the Teacher’s Report Form: A cross-national, cross-clinic comparative analysis of gender dysphoric children and adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 42, 635–647. doi: 10.1007/s10802-013-9804-2.
- VanderLaan, D. P., Gothreau, L. M., Bartlett, N. H., & Vasey, P. L. (2011). Recalled separation anxiety and gender atypicality in childhood: A study of Canadian heterosexual and homosexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1233–1240. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9695-z.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Zietsch, B. P., Verweij, K. J. H., Heath, A. C., Madden, P. A. F., Martin, N. G., Nelson, E. C., & Lynskey, M. T. (2012). Do shared etiological factors contribute to the relationship between sexual orientation and depression? Psychological Medicine, 42, 521–532. doi: 10.1017/S0033291711001577.
- Zucker, K. J., & Bradley, S. J. (1995). Gender identity disorder and psychosexual problems in children and adolescents. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar