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Peng K, Zhu X, Gillespie A, et al. Self-reported Rates of Abuse, Neglect, and Bullying Experienced by Transgender and Gender-Nonbinary Adolescents in China. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(9):e1911058. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.11058
What are the rates of abuse, neglect, and bullying and their association with poor mental health experienced by Chinese transgender and gender nonbinary adolescents?
In this national survey study of 385 transgender and gender-nonbinary adolescents, 296 respondents reported experiencing parental abuse or neglect and 295 respondents reported experiencing abuse or bullying from classmates or teachers. Reporting experiences of bullying or abuse from classmates or teachers was significantly associated with increased risk of suicidal ideation.
Greater access to appropriate mental health care may be helpful to address the high rates of mental health issues and abuse, neglect, and bullying experienced by Chinese transgender and gender-nonbinary adolescents.
This is the first comprehensive national study reporting the rates of abuse, neglect, and bullying from family and classmates or teachers among Chinese transgender and gender-nonbinary adolescents and identifying risk factors associated with poor mental health in this population.
To assess the rates of abuse, neglect, and bullying and their association with poor mental health among Chinese transgender and gender nonbinary adolescents.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This national survey study used an online self-selecting survey conducted between January 1, 2017, and September 29, 2017, in China. Eligibility criteria included reporting being aged 12 to 18 years and being transgender or gender nonbinary. Data analysis was performed from March 25 to 28, 2019.
Main Outcomes and Measures
The main outcome was self-reported poor mental health, including depressive symptoms, anxiety symptoms, and suicidal ideation. Depressive symptoms were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression 9-item scale. Anxiety symptoms were measured using the 7-item General Anxiety Disorder scale. Suicidal ideation was measured using standardized questions adapted from previous Chinese studies. Abuse, neglect, and bullying were measured using specifically designed questions.
Of 564 responses collected, 385 respondents (mean [SD] age, 16.7 [1.2] years) met inclusion criteria, including 109 (28.3%) transgender adolescent boys, 167 (43.4%) transgender adolescent girls, and 109 (28.3%) gender-nonbinary adolescents. Among 319 respondents who reported that their parents were aware of their gender identity, 296 (92.8%) reported having experienced parental abuse or neglect. Among the full cohort, 295 respondents (76.6%) reported having experienced abuse or bullying owing to being transgender or gender nonbinary in school from classmates or teachers. There were 173 respondents (44.9%) with Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression 9-item scale scores indicating they were at risk of major depressive disorder, and 148 respondents (38.4%) had 7-item General Anxiety Disorder scale scores indicating they were at risk of an anxiety disorder. In univariate analysis, reporting experiences of bullying from a classmate or teacher was significantly associated with suicidal ideation (odds ratio, 1.68 [95% CI, 1.04-2.70]; P = .03), but the association was no longer statistically significant after controlling for level of educational attainment, aversion to assigned sex, and depressed mood at the onset of puberty (odds ratio, 1.63 [95% CI, 0.97-2.73]; P = .06).
Conclusions and Relevance
In this survey study, transgender and gender-nonbinary adolescents in China reported high rates of abuse, neglect, and bullying at home and in school and high rates of symptoms associated with poor mental health. This study highlights the importance of reducing home- and school-based abuse, neglect, and bullying of transgender and gender-nonbinary adolescents in China to improve mental health outcomes; however, broader change in the social environment may be required to address the prejudice and stigma aimed at gender minorities.
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