A new study from Aarhus University shows that children who at the age of 11 expressed a desire to be of a different sex enter puberty earlier than their peers. However, more research is needed, say the researchers behind the study.
The transition to puberty can be difficult for children who experience self-doubt. New research from the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University suggests that these children also enter puberty earlier than children who have no doubts about their gender identity. Master’s student Anne Hayworth-Thomsen and Professor Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen are behind the study.
This study, which is the first of its kind in the world to examine the relationship between children’s desire to be of the opposite sex and their development at puberty, was conducted as part of the Better Health for Generations (BSIG) research project, which involved monitoring 100,000 Danish pregnancies and births, as well as on the growth and development of their children, since 1996.
In the study, 11-year-olds were asked about a possible desire to be of the opposite sex. This information was then combined with data in which the children report, every six months, on their current stage in the different stages of puberty. At age 11, about 5% of the children in the study reported either a partial or complete desire to be of the opposite sex.
Findings indicate that 11-year-old children who express a desire to be of the opposite sex tend to reach puberty earlier than children who do not express a desire to change their gender. In the study, both boys and girls assigned to give birth with a previous desire to change sex entered puberty about two months earlier than their peers.
Anne Hayworth Thomsen, Student, Aarhus University
Anne Hayworth-Thomsen stresses that more research is needed before any definitive conclusions can be drawn, but it is important for health workers to be aware of children’s prepubertal development.
“Health professionals may experience a urge to slow down puberty, because the child may not feel comfortable in their own body, or they may not be able to identify with it. It is therefore important that health care professionals possess basic knowledge about the development of puberty for children, so that treatment can be applied right on time “.
Anne Hjorth Thomsen and Professor Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen recommend following up the research findings with new studies.
“In this study, we see the development of earlier puberty among children who wish to be of the opposite sex, compared to children who do not wish to be of the opposite sex. But we do not know whether children’s perception of gender influences their development into puberty.” , or whether there are other explanations. We don’t know the underlying causes,” says Anne Hayworth-Thomsen.
Thompson, ah, et al. (2022) Discrepancy between the sexes and timing of puberty: a population cohort study. Fertility and infertility. doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2022.07.018.