Body image in children with gender incongruence

Anouk Verveen, Baudewijntje P. C. Kreukels, Nastasja M. de Graaf, Thomas D. Steensma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: In the DSM-5 diagnosis of childhood Gender Dysphoria, two of the eight criteria focus on body satisfaction of the child. Nevertheless, this subject is understudied. This study aims to describe the body image of children with gender incongruence (GI) in relation to birth assigned sex and the intensity of GI. Method: Self-report and parent-report measures on body satisfaction and gender incongruence were obtained from 207 children (<12 years) who were referred to the Center of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria at the Amsterdam University Medical Centers, location VUmc, between 2010 and 2016. First, a general description of body satisfaction in children who took part in this study is provided. Secondly, body image of birth assigned boys and girls are compared using chi-square tests and univariate ANCOVA’s. Thirdly, the association between intensity of GI and body image is examined using multiple linear regression analyses. Results: Of the 207 children with GI, 50% reported dissatisfaction with their gender-specific characteristics. Overall, children were less dissatisfied with their neutral body characteristics. Birth assigned girls report greater dissatisfaction with their body characteristics than birth assigned boys. Intensity of GI was significantly related to satisfaction with gender specific body characteristics where a greater intensity of GI relates to more body dissatisfaction. Conclusion: Mental health practitioners should be aware of the diversity in body dissatisfaction in this group. Furthermore, evaluation of body image should be an important topic in the counseling of these children. Future research should focus on the relation of body dissatisfaction and the development of gender incongruent feelings in children with GI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-854
Number of pages16
JournalClinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Cite this