Parenting a gender diverse child: the role of ambiguous loss and resilience in parental coping.

  • Lou Pryer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


AbstractBackground: Our understanding of gender is continually evolving, helping us not only to make sense of who we are as a person, but also how we interact with other people in our relationships (Norwood, 2013). We are all flooded with gender messages from the time we are born, and this is perhaps most evident in the relationships we form with family members, especially those between parents and children. Therefore, when a child is gender questioning, this can often be very difficult for parents, and can trigger feelings of confusion and loss around their child’s role and identity within the family system (Gregor, Hingley-Jones, & Davidson, 2015). There is only very limited research around the emotional experiences of parents of children who are gender questioning, and yet parents and family members form an integral part of children and young people’s gender-related assessment and treatment in health servicesAims: The current study seeks to explore the role of ambiguous loss upon parents of gender diverse childrens’ (GDC) mental health, resilience and coping skills.Methods: A convenience sample of 37 primary caregivers of children between the ages of 9-16 accessing the assessment service at the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) were asked to complete an online survey at the beginning of the assessment process. The survey included a demographic questionnaire, a measure of ambiguous loss and standardised measures of anxiety, depression, intolerance of uncertainty (IoU) and resilience. Results: Statistical analysis showed that ambiguous loss does predict both anxiety and depression in parents of GDC, but this relationship is not mediated by resilience or IoU. Thematic analysis of the ambiguous loss questionnaire identified three main themes; worry, loss and positioning. Discussion: This research confirms existing research that parents of GDC experience dual ambiguous loss, and provides evidence that ambiguous loss is linked to anxiety and depression in these parents. Future research would do well to explore support for parents of GDC, as currently this appears to be a very limited resource. Keywords: Gender diversity, parents, mental health.
Date of Award16 Sept 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorCatherine Butler (Supervisor), Kate Cooper (Supervisor) & Trilby Langton (Supervisor)

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