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Study by NCFR Members Highlights Transgender Children and Custody Challenges

Family Science research on transgender children and their custody has been featured recently in the national news media.

Research by NCFR members Katherine A. Kuvalanka, Ph.D.; Abbie E. Goldberg, Ph.D.; and Jenifer K. McGuire, Ph.D., finds that judges and juries will award custody to parents who repress a child's personal sense of gender identity.

This finding, from an article published in Family Court Review, has been cited by the New York Times and Washington Post in their coverage of a custody challenge over a 7-year-old child in Dallas, Texas.

The study examined 10 trials in the U.S. where mothers had affirmed their transgender or gender-nonconforming (TGNC) child, and faced custody‐related challenges by partners who disagreed with that approach. All 10 of the women report being blamed by their ex-partners for causing the children to assert transgender identities. At the time of publication, two of the participants had sole physical and legal custody of their children; four participants lost physical and/or legal custody as ruled by a judge; and four participants shared physical and legal custody.

Court officials in these cases were unfamiliar with evidence‐based recommendations for TGNC children. Findings indicate the need for better‐educated family court professionals, as well as socioemotional support and financial and legal assistance for affirming parents of TGNC children. Their research was funded by a 2014 NCFR Innovation Grant.

Dr. Kuvalanka, an expert on LGBTQ and families, is quoted in the Post story: “Many people wrongly assume that prepubescent transgender or gender-diverse children will receive medical interventions. ... The only interventions for young children is affirmation and acceptance for who they are.”