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Using circular questions to explore individual family member experiences of youth gender dysphoria in Australia


Westwater, JJ and Riley, E and Peterson, GM, Using circular questions to explore individual family member experiences of youth gender dysphoria in Australia, International Journal of Transgenderism pp. 1-16. ISSN 2689-5269 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

DOI: doi:10.1080/26895269.2020.1777616


Background: The number of young people reporting gender dysphoria is increasing worldwide, with gender dysphoria known to affect everyone in the family in unique ways. Previous research has highlighted the importance of family support and understanding; however, much less is known about individual and collective family member experiences, particularly for siblings under the age of 18 years.

Aims: This study sought to identify, describe and interpret individual family member experiences of youth gender dysphoria using semi-structured interviews, incorporating circular questioning, within a whole of family, clinical and wider social context.

Methods: Thirty-five individual family members living in Australia (nine young people aged 12-17 years experiencing gender dysphoria, 10 mothers, eight fathers, and eight siblings aged 11-17 years) were interviewed, exploring positive and negative experiences of youth gender dysphoria, within and outside of the family. Family relationships, support and healthcare experiences were also explored.

Results: All participants reported a mixture of positive and negative experiences of youth gender dysphoria. Levels of acceptance tended to change with the duration of transition, with most family members adapting with time. Siblings reported mixed experiences within the same family, with some struggling to adapt. Most family members felt that including the whole family in the healthcare of the young person was important, although dependent on individual circumstances and family context. Specialist gender care experiences were unanimously positive, although services were considered difficult to access.

Discussion: Family members reported shared and individual positive and negative experiences of youth gender dysphoria across social contexts. Accepting and facilitating gender transition for young people appeared to improve individual and family functioning. Most participants valued a whole of family approach within specialist healthcare. The use of circular questioning in the study helped dispel assumptions and facilitated curiosity for others’ experiences in the family.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:gender dysphoria, youth, family, sibling, parent, experiences, circular questioning
Research Division:Health Sciences
Research Group:Health services and systems
Research Field:Mental health services
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Mental health
UTAS Author:Westwater, JJ (Mr Jason Westwater)
UTAS Author:Riley, E (Dr Elizabeth Riley)
UTAS Author:Peterson, GM (Professor Gregory Peterson)
ID Code:139396
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Pharmacy
Deposited On:2020-06-14
Last Modified:2020-07-31

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