Is Transgenderism in Teens Contagious?

Adolescents can be influenced by peer pressure and social media when it comes to identifying as transgender.

(photo: Pixabay/CC0)

Brown University School of Public Health study recently found that “social and peer contagion” may play a role in “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” among adolescents and young adults. Gender dysphoria is believing yourself to be the opposite gender from your biological sex. Rapid-onset gender dysphoria is when such feelings manifest themselves suddenly – within days or weeks – without having been present in early youth.

The study, “Rapid-onset Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Young Adults: A Study of Parental Report,” was authored by Dr. Lisa Littman. Here’s what she wrote about the connection between teens’ coming to identify as transgender and the influence of social media and peer pressure:

The elevated number of friends per friendship group who became transgender-identified, the pattern of cluster outbreaks of transgender-identification in these friendship groups, the substantial percentage of friendship groups where the majority of the members became transgender-identified, and the peer group dynamics observed all serve to support the plausibility of social and peer contagion for [rapid-onset gender dysphoria].

In other words, Littman’s research led her to believe, as columnist Ben Shapiro wrote, “that friends and online sources could spread certain beliefs. Examples include the belief that non-specific symptoms such as feeling uncomfortable in their own skins or feeling like they don’t fit in – which could be a part of normal puberty or associated with trauma – should be perceived as gender dysphoria…” 

Put more simply, adolescents can be influenced by peer pressure and social media when it comes to identifying as transgender.

The study coincides with news out of the United Kingdom that in only eight years the number of children seeking sex change treatments there has increased more than 4,000 percent. A report in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper details what it calls “an explosion in the number of children wanting to change sex.”

Dr. Michelle Cretella is Executive Director of the American College of Pediatricians who focused on children’s behavioral health as a general pediatrician. I asked her about the Brown University study, and the increase in children identifying as transgender.


What do you make of the Brown University study? 

This study is a critical first step in identifying environmental causes of transgender identification among teens. This study could literally save lives by preventing countless teens from making permanent life-altering decisions they will later regret. Decisions such as procuring a double mastectomy at age 13. Dr. Littman is to be commended for her scholarship and courage in publishing on this politically incorrect topic.


What is social contagion?

In psychology, social contagion refers to the spread of a behavior pattern, attitude, or emotion from person to person, or group to group, through peer pressure, suggestion, all forms of media, rumor or imitation.


Adolescents have always been subject to peer pressure. But could peer pressure, perhaps heightened by social media, actually trigger kids to believe they were born the wrong sex?

Absolutely. Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development explains what all parents and others who work with teens know: adolescence is a period of identity formation. The one job all teenagers have is to figure out who they are, to try out different roles, try on different identities. And here our society is holding out a mental illness not only as an identity, but as the explanation of, and answer to, all adolescent angst. If only they claim this identity, transition with hormones and surgery, and are affirmed in that decision, all will be well. It also does not help that being “trans” is the hottest identity you can claim these days. Adolescents have stated as much in studies.


Could the current rise in transgender identification among children and teens be, as the Brown study suggests, related to social contagion? Would it be fair to say that transgenderism in teens is contagious? 

Yes. Regarding transgender identification, social contagion is unleashed on teens via the internet, mainstream and social media, messaging in schools, peer pressure, and sadly, from the medical elites who propagandize gender ideology as science.


Are there other examples of contagion being a factor in teens’ psychological disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia? 

Yes. Eating disorders and suicide have long been acknowledged as disorders perpetuated by social contagion. Drug, alcohol use, smoking, violence and sexual activity are also recognized as socially contagious among youth. This is why our society cracked down on the advertising of alcohol and smoking in the media. Much work remains to be done in regard to the violent and sexual content of media, of course.


In your view how can parents and other adults protect kids from peer pressure that might lead to misguided beliefs and unhealthy behaviors?

Parent child connectedness is the No. 1 protective factor that is ideally nurtured across a child’s life beginning in infancy. For concrete suggestions, the American College of Pediatricians provides newsletters for parents called “Parent Talk”, and also recommends the resources of Dr. Thomas Lickona, a developmental psychologist, father and grandfather, who is also considered the Father of Modern Character Education.