NASHVILLE - A new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests boys who act like girls and girls who act like boys are at risk of abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The researchers polled adults about childhood preferences such as toys and games, and found that the girls who had preferred traditional boys' activities and the boys who liked such things as dolls had experienced more abuse, from parents and others.
Maxine Thome, who heads the National Association of Social Workers-Michigan, counsels young people who are homosexual, lesbian and transgender.
"I can tell you that the internal struggle for people clearly indicates that it is not a choice and that's why so many people struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, suicidal ideation," Thome said.
The study suggests that schools and doctors screen for abuse in such children. Thome said there needs to be much more education around gender identity so that children who are different will be kept safe, rather than forced to conform.
She said parents and others should avoid the so-called cookie-cutter approach to gender identity, and tells parents that children who enjoy games or toys associated with the opposite sex are not necessarily homosexual. And Thome said that trying to change them can be very harmful, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual.
"Systems need to be structured in a way to help that child or individual continue to identify as they wish to identify, but to protect them and to educate those around them," Thome said.
Thome said education and meaningful legislation could go a long way in protecting children.
"Anti-bullying laws need to be stronger and need to spell out the populations that are at risk for bullying," she said.
The study found rates of post-traumatic stress disorder to be nearly twice as high in adults who as children had not conformed to traditional gender roles, than in those who had.
The study is at tinyurl.com/7p92ps2.