Stories about: Kids and gender identity

Disney, gender and the parent as gatekeeper

Meaghan O’Keeffe, RN, BSN, is a mother, writer and nurse. She worked at Boston Children’s Hospital for nearly a decade, in both the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and the Pre-op Clinic.  She is a regular contributor to Thriving.

Meaghan_OKeeffe_1Not a single temper tantrum was thrown during our recent week-long Disney World vacation.

And my children were pretty well-behaved too.

My husband and I aren’t really “Disney people,” but, like most children, our kids are. So being the bigger people, (literally and figuratively) we headed to Orlando armed with good attitudes, determined to enjoy our time there and experience our children’s excitement.

But I also went to Disney with a certain degree of curiosity. As the mother of a little boy and girl, I wanted to see how much of our Disney experience centered on gender.

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Studies explore gender identity and children

The journal Pediatrics released two studies this week that focused on the mental and physical wellbeing of children who don’t conform to typical gender roles.

The first study, led by Children’s Hospital Boston researcher S. Bryn Austin, ScD, indicates that kids who fail to adapt traditional gender stereotypes as children are at a significantly greater risk for physical, sexual and psychological abuse during childhood. These children are also more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in young adulthood.

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health and compiled data from almost 9,000 young adults. Participants were asked to recall their childhood experiences, including their favorite toys and games growing up. The types of charters they related to as children, which roles they adopted during pretend play and their earliest understanding of masculinity and femininity where all reported on as well. Researchers also asked participants to disclose information about any physical, sexual or emotional abuse they experienced at the hands of parents, other adults or older children. Finally, participants were screened for PSTD.

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