Transgender adolescents (TGAs) exhibit disproportionate levels of mental health problems compared with cisgender adolescents (CGAs), but psychosocial processes underlying mental health disparities among TGAs remain understudied. We examined self-reported childhood abuse among TGAs compared with CGAs and risk for abuse within subgroups of TGAs in a nationwide sample of US adolescents.
Adolescents aged 14 to 18 completed a cross-sectional online survey (n = 1836, including 1055 TGAs, 340 heterosexual CGAs, and 433 sexual minority CGAs). Participants reported gender assigned at birth and current gender identity (categorized as the following: cisgender males, cisgender females, transgender males, transgender females, nonbinary adolescents assigned female at birth, nonbinary adolescents assigned male at birth, and questioning gender identity). Lifetime reports of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse were measured.
Seventy-three percent of TGAs reported psychological abuse, 39% reported physical abuse, and 19% reported sexual abuse. Compared with heterosexual CGAs, TGAs had higher odds of psychological abuse (odds ratio [OR] = 1.84), physical abuse (OR = 1.61), and sexual abuse (OR = 2.04). Within separate subgroup analyses, transgender males and nonbinary adolescents assigned female at birth had higher odds of reporting psychological abuse than CGAs.
In a nationwide online sample of US adolescents, TGAs had elevated rates of psychological, physical, and sexual abuse compared with heterosexual CGAs. Risk for psychological abuse was highest among TGAs assigned female at birth. In the future, researchers should examine how more frequent experiences of abuse during childhood could contribute to disproportionate mental health problems observed within this population.