Parental reactions to transgender and gender diverse children: A literature review

Roberto L. Abreu, Dani E. Rosenkrantz, Jonathan T. Ryser-Oatman, Sharon S. Rostosky, Ellen D.B. Riggle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Transgender and gender diverse (TGD) individuals face stigmatization from family members and peers, placing this group at high risk of adverse outcomes including suicidality, substance abuse, and compromised mental health. This article uses a literature review approach to explore the common experiences of parents of TGD individuals as they navigate their relationship with their TGD children. Across 32 identified studies, the experiences of parental reactions include: (a) initial experiences (including noticing gender atypical behavior, diverse emotional reactions, cognitive dissonance and behavioral avoidance, and lack of knowledge); (b) transformation processes (including seeking informative resources and developing cognitive flexibility, seeking support and making TGD connections, facing barriers and isolation, developing awareness of discrimination and building empathy, and acknowledging the toll on mental health); (c) positive outcomes (including relational benefits, affirmation of values and activism, and new personal narratives); and (d) influences on the process (including time, gender, and attribution of the cause of TGD identity). Recommendations for health service providers include acknowledging diverse emotional reactions and cognitive dissonance, cultivating hope, honoring systemic barriers, and helping parents of TGD individuals create new positive narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-485
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of GLBT Family Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • Parental figures
  • TGD children
  • literature review
  • parental reactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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