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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 45 (2003) 4, 193 - 201

New research

Transsexual adolescents before treatment: background and functioning

Y.E. van Campen, J.H.M. Duyx

background  In the last decade transsexuals are applying for sex reassignment at increasingly younger ages. As a consequence, professionals are facing new questions and the need for empirical data in this field is increased. In the context of their request, the psychological functioning of adolescent transsexuals is of particular interest.
aim  To describe background data and functioning of a group of consecutive transsexual adolescents that presented at the outpatient gender clinic of the department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the University Medical Center Utrecht.
method  Demographic and other background data as well as data on intellectual and psychological functioning were gathered of 78 adolescents who were diagnosed as transsexuals, using a structured interview, IO tests and (personality) questionnaires. The data were gathered shortly after the patients entered the gender clinic.
results  No strikingly atypical social or other background factors were found in this group. With respect to intellectual and psychological functioning, the group scored in the average range as compared to normative samples. A relatively high scoring subgroup appeared not to differ from the normal scoring group with respect to family situation, intelligence or educational level, but depressed feelings occurred more often among parents in this latter group.
conclusions  Most of the adolescents in this study did not exhibit severe psychological problems. A subgroup functioned psychologically relatively unfavourable. These adolescents need extra attention, not only during the diagnostic phase, but also later, during and after treatment. Also, in this group, the decision to start the sex reassignment procedure should be taken with even more caution than in the other group.

keywords adolescents, gender identity disorder, sex reassignment, transsexualism