Gender Variance and the Autism Spectrum: An Examination of Children Ages 6–12 Years

  • A. Natisha Nabbijohn
  • Anna I. R. van der Miesen
  • Alanna Santarossa
  • Diana Peragine
  • Annelou L. C. de Vries
  • Arne Popma
  • Meng-Chuan Lai
  • Doug P. VanderLaanEmail author
Original Paper


Gender variance (GV) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) frequently co-occur in clinical populations. We investigated GV in association with ASD characteristics in nonclinical children and in children with developmental/mental health diagnoses. In 6–12-year-olds (N = 2445; 51% birth-assigned boys), the Gender Identity Questionnaire for Children measured GV and the Children’s Social Behavior Questionnaire measured six subdomains of ASD characteristics. Among nonclinical children, GV was associated with parent-reported difficulties orienting socially and stereotyped behaviors. GV was also associated with parent-reported clinical diagnoses of ASD, sensory processing disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder. These findings suggest associations between specific ASD characteristics and GV in nonclinical children. Also, childhood GV should be further examined in a range of clinical populations, including ASD individuals.


Gender variance Gender dysphoria Autism spectrum disorder Sensory processing disorder Oppositional defiant disorder 



We thank Dr. Carla Mazefsky and two anonymous reviewers for thoughful comments on earlier drafts of this article. ANN and AS were supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Undergraduate Research Awards. This research was funded by a University of Toronto Mississauga Research and Scholarly Activity Fund Award and a SSHRC Insight Development Grant awarded to DPV.

Author Contributions

ANN, AS, and DPV conceived and designed the study. ANN, AS, DEP, and DPV collected the data. ANN, AIRvdM, DEP, MCL and DPV conducted the data analyses. All authors participated in writing and revising the manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Natisha Nabbijohn
    • 1
  • Anna I. R. van der Miesen
    • 2
  • Alanna Santarossa
    • 1
    • 7
  • Diana Peragine
    • 1
  • Annelou L. C. de Vries
    • 2
  • Arne Popma
    • 2
  • Meng-Chuan Lai
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Doug P. VanderLaan
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Toronto MississaugaMississaugaCanada
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Center of Expertise on Gender DysphoriaVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and The Hospital for Sick ChildrenUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Autism Research CentreUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  5. 5.Department of PsychiatryNational Taiwan University Hospital and College of MedicineTaipeiTaiwan
  6. 6.Child and Youth PsychiatryCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  7. 7.Faculty of MedicineUniversity of Toronto MississaugaMississaugaCanada

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