Gender Dysphoria More Common in Young Adults with Autism

July 26, 2021

Mental Health Challenges and Childhood Trauma Correspond with Higher Incidence of Condition

Previous cross sectional research has shown that people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to experience gender dysphoria. The reasons for this higher incidence have remained unclear, which is why an international team of researchers from Taiwan and Canada investigated the underlying mechanisms of this overrepresentation. To discover the reasons behind this higher incidence, the team assessed 88 individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 42 typically developing individuals at age 13 (adolescence) and then again at 20 years old (adulthood). The first evaluation explored baseline predictors such as family support, autism-related challenges and characteristics. The second evaluation contained queries about the test subject’s adult life and included an item from the Adult Self-Report Inventory-4 which stated, “I wish I was the opposite sex.” After running the data from both assessments, the researchers determined that more adults with ASD agreed with the statement concerning the desire to be the opposite sex than typically developing controls. Additionally, the adults with autism that agreed with the statement also had experienced more mental health challenges, more school bullying and cyberbullying, more suicidal ideation, and had a worse quality of life overall. Furthermore, lower family support and more stereotyped/repetitive behaviors during childhood/adolescence were also associated with the self-reported wish to be the opposite sex. In the end, the study’s authors call for more attention and support for individuals with autism regarding gender development and related mental health issues as well as the quality of life impact, especially during the transition period from adolescence to adulthood. 

Original Study Abstract

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