SOCIAL TRANSITION OF PRE-PUBERTAL CHILDREN: WHAT DO WE KNOW?
February 03, 201711:00 AM-February 03, 201712:00 PM
Centennial Hall A
KellyStorck, MSW LCSW;
DianeEhrensaft, PhD ;
JohannaOlson-Kennedy, MD; MS
Mini-Symposium Outline: This mini-symposium will address the theoretical underpinnings, present controversies, developmental/psychological/family systems/pathways, and mental health outcomes for gender-nonconforming children who socially transition from one gender to another prior to the onset of puberty. As we track the monumental expansions in the areas of gender awareness, social affirmation and medical care available to gender expansive children occurring over the last decade, one specific area stands out warranting more systematic investigation: the increasing number of pre-pubertal children socially transitioning from one gender to another in early childhood with support of their families and health/mental health providers. The phenomenon of social transitions is accompanied by a significant controversy within the field of gender health/gender studies and among the general public. This controversy generally coalesces around the following questions: 1) Can a young child know their gender? 2) Given existing data regarding persisters and desisters, is it reasonable to assume that children’s early gender affirmations will be stable over time? 3) What are the psycho-social consequences for youth who socially transition in childhood? This presentation will address each of these questions and open them up for participant discussion. Although we are only beginning to gather systematic research data documenting outcomes for early-transitioning children (e.g., see K. Olson et al, Mental health of transgender children who are supported in their identities, Pediatrics, in press), we have important clinical observations and family reports available that document the child and family’s experiences of early social transitions. Calling on available quantitative and qualitative data bases, including Dr. Olson’s, this symposium outlines the assessment process, therapeutic interventions and support systems involved in social transitions. Based on research and clinical observations of pre-pubertal children who have completed a social transition, a revised model of basic gender development will be presented, along with a template of gender as cure rather than disease. Also highlighted will be an innovative new model mapping the transactional parent-child pathways and the sequential developmental child and family trajectories over time when a young child socially transitions. This model places emphasis on parent-child interactions, as children’s dependency on caregivers to understand and assist them inevitably make early social transitions a whole-family experience and one often accompanied by contact with a pediatrician, mental health professional, interdisciplinary gender specialist team and/or social support groups. The goals of this symposium are two-fold: 1) to explore the phenomenon of pre-pubertal social transitions; 2) to apply understandings of this phenomenon to the gender affirmative approach, in which listening and acting replaces watchful waiting and in which children, along with their families, make informed choices regarding such transitions. To that end, we will address the three questions listed above to ascertain the goodness-of-fit of the early transition phenomenon in promoting children’s gender health. Our learning objective, understanding the range of psycho-social experiences of children and families who are contemplating, choosing and/or living with a child's social transition, is intended to address the controversial questions before us and assist practitioners in providing informed, ethical care to the diverse children and families seeking their services. Category: Children and Adolescents: Mental Health