Research Projects Using Growing Up Data

Observed emotionality in parent-child dyads: the role of gender diversity in youth

Publication Date:
Lead Organisation:
University of Auckland, University of Waikato
Lead Researcher:
John Fenaughty, Ilana Seager van Dyk, Kane Meissel, Amy Bird, Elizabeth Peterson
Access Type:
Primary Classification:
Family and Whanau
Secondary Classification:
Psych and Cog

Gender diverse (e.g., transgender, non-binary) people experience

disproportionately high rates of mental illness relative to their cisgender

peers. Prior research shows that, for gender-diverse youth, the family context is a critical determinant of youth mental health. Specifically, when gender diverse youth are rejected by their parents due to their gender identity, they tend to have more mental health problems, whereas when they are accepted and supported by their parents, they tend to exhibit improved mental health. However, the research in this area is limited by 1) a general dearth of studies, 2) a reliance on adult gender diverse samples who report on their recalled experiences during childhood, and 3) a lack of more objective, observational studies of parent-child dyads interacting.

In this project, we will examine the performance of gender-diverse youth in the 8-year follow-up of the Growing Up in New Zealand cohort on a parent-child interaction task, and compare it with that of cisgender youth. Specifically, we will compare the two groups on interviewers’ ratings of 1) child emotionality and engagement in the task, 2) mothers’ management of their child’s emotions during the task, and 3) general characteristics of the dyadic interaction like warmth and the degree to which the experience was shared. Finally, we will examine associations between performance on this task with other indicators of family functioning and child wellbeing. Understanding how gender diverse youth in New Zealand function within the family context is critical for the development of targeted, effective interventions that seek to support this population.