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Kids Who Doubt Their Gender Identity Enter Puberty Earlier

Author: Aarhus University
Author Contact:
Published: 18th Nov 2022
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: LGBT Adolescents Publications

Summary: A study shows that children who have expressed a desire at age 11 to be a different gender enter puberty earlier than their peers.



Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child's body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. Before puberty, the external sex organs, known as primary sexual characteristics, are sex characteristics that distinguish boys and girls. Puberty leads to sexual dimorphism by developing secondary sex characteristics, which further distinguish the sexes. Hormonal signals initiate puberty from the brain to the gonads: the ovaries in a girl and the testes in a boy. In response to the signals, the gonads produce hormones that stimulate libido and the growth, function, and transformation of the brain, bones, muscles, blood, skin, hair, breasts, and sex organs. Physical growth, height, and weight accelerate in the first half of puberty and are completed when an adult body has been developed.

Main Document

Gender incongruence and timing of puberty: a population-based cohort study

The transition to puberty can be difficult for children who are afflicted by doubt about their own gender identity. New research from the Department of Public Health at Aarhus University suggests that these children also enter puberty earlier than children who do not doubt their gender identity. Master's program student Anne Hjorth Thomsen and Professor Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen are behind the study.

The study, which is one of the first in the world to examine the correlation between children's desire to be the opposite gender and their development in puberty, was undertaken as part of the research project "Better Health for Generations" (BSIG), which has monitored 100,000 Danish women's pregnancies and births, as well as the growth and development of their children, since 1996.

In the study, the children were asked at the age of 11 about a possible desire to be the opposite gender. This information was then combined with data in which, every six months, the children reported their current stage in various puberty milestones. At age 11, around 5% of the children in the study reported either a partial or a full desire to be the opposite gender.

"The results indicate that children who at age 11 reported a desire to be the opposite gender tended to go into puberty before children who had not expressed a desire to change their gender. In the study, both birth-assigned boys and girls with a previously expressed desire to change gender entered puberty around two months earlier than their peers," says Anne Hjorth Thomsen.

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Black and red overlapping silhouettes of a male and female against a blue patterned background.Black and red overlapping silhouettes of a male and female against a blue patterned background.


Anne Hjorth Thomsen stresses that more research is needed before any conclusions can be drawn but that health staff must be aware of children's previous puberty development.

"Health professionals may encounter a desire to slow down puberty because the child may not feel comfortable in their own body or able to identify with it. It is therefore important that the healthcare professionals possess a basic knowledge about the puberty development of the children so that treatment can be applied at the right time."

Anne Hjorth Thomsen and Professor Cecilia Ramlau-Hansen recommend that new studies follow up on the research results.

"In this study, we see earlier puberty development among children who wish to be the opposite gender, compared to children who do not wish to be the opposite gender. But we do not know whether the children's gender perception affects their puberty development or whether there may be other explanations. We do not know the underlying causes," says Anne Hjorth Thomsen.

Research Results:

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• (APA): Aarhus University. (2022, November 18). Kids Who Doubt Their Gender Identity Enter Puberty Earlier. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from

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