Development of Gender Non-Contentedness During Adolescence and Early Adulthood

Arch Sex Behav. 2024 May;53(5):1813-1825. doi: 10.1007/s10508-024-02817-5. Epub 2024 Feb 27.


Adolescence is an important period for the development of gender identity. We studied the development of gender non-contentedness, i.e., unhappiness with being the gender aligned with one's sex, from early adolescence to young adulthood, and its association with self-concept, behavioral and emotional problems, and adult sexual orientation. Participants were 2772 adolescents (53% male) from the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey population and clinical cohort. Data from six waves were included (ages 11-26). Gender non-contentedness was assessed with the item "I wish to be of the opposite sex" from the Youth and Adult Self-Report at all six waves. Behavioral and emotional problems were measured by total scores of these scales at all six waves. Self-concept was assessed at age 11 using the Global Self-Worth and Physical Appearance subscales of the Self-Perception Profile for Children. Sexual orientation was assessed at age 22 by self-report. In early adolescence, 11% of participants reported gender non-contentedness. The prevalence decreased with age and was 4% at the last follow-up (around age 26). Three developmental trajectories of gender non-contentedness were identified: no gender non-contentedness (78%), decreasing gender non-contentedness (19%), and increasing gender non-contentedness (2%). Individuals with an increasing gender non-contentedness more often were female and both an increasing and decreasing trajectory were associated with a lower global self-worth, more behavioral and emotional problems, and a non-heterosexual sexual orientation. Gender non-contentedness, while being relatively common during early adolescence, in general decreases with age and appears to be associated with a poorer self-concept and mental health throughout development.

Keywords: Adolescence; Gender dysphoria; Gender non-contentedness; Sexual orientation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Report
  • Sexual Behavior* / psychology
  • Young Adult