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Transgender Youth Executive Functioning: Relationships with Anxiety Symptoms, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Gender-Affirming Medical Treatment Status

Strang, J, et al.


Executive function (EF) underlies broad health and adaptive outcomes. For transgender youth, navigating gender discernment and gender affirmation demand EF. Yet, factors associated with transgender youth EF are unknown. We investigate hypothesized predictors of EF: over-represented conditions among transgender youth (anxiety and depression symptoms, autism spectrum disorder [ASD]) and gender-affirming care. One-hundred twenty-four transgender 11-21-year-olds participated. Parents/caregivers completed EF and mental health report measures. ASD diagnostics and gender-affirming medication histories were collected. 21 % of non-autistic and 69 % of autistic transgender youth had clinically elevated EF problems. Membership in the gender-affirming hormone treatment group was associated with better EF. ASD, anxiety symptoms, and membership in the long-duration pubertal suppression group were associated with poorer EF. Given the importance of EF skills for multiple outcomes, and the unique and additional EF demands specific to transgender youths' experiences, EF skill monitoring-and when appropriate, supports-should be considered for transgender youth.

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