The federal government is spending $1 million on a national study of transgender children — including some as young as age 3, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
The grant money is going to University of Washington psychologist Kristina Olson, 36, who was named winner of the National Science Foundation's annual Alan T. Waterman Award. The award is considered "the government's highest honor for scientists still in the early phases of their careers," according to the AP.
The foundation announced that their choice was unanimous and "pediatricians are already using her findings to raise awareness about gender diversity."
Why was this researcher picked?
The award citation honors Olson for her overall research of children's perceptions, the AP reported. However, Olson is best known as the creator and leader of the TransYouth Project. That project is considered the most ambitious, long-range study of its kind.
While the award citation honors Olson for a broad range of her research on children’s perceptions, she has become best known as creator and leader of the TransYouth Project. The project is widely regarded as the most ambitious long-term study of transgender children in the U.S, according to the report.
“‘Transgender children’ is a category we have so little scientific knowledge about,” Olson told The Associated Press. “I’m interested in their experience of feeling you are in a social category that other people don’t think you’re a part of.”
What has the study found so far?
Early findings from the study were reported two years ago in the journal Pediatrics, the AP reported. One of the most significant findings was the 73 children participating in the study had rates of depression and anxiety that were no higher than non-transgender children in study control groups.
The transgender children were receiving support from their families that allowed them to openly live as the gender of their choice, the report states. Olson said that indicates family support played an important role in avoiding the mental health problems experienced by youths in other transgender studies.
“In a very scientific way, our study shows that this group of kids is doing really, really well,” she told the AP.
Since it began in 2013, Olson's project recruited more than 300 children, ages 3-12, in 45 states. The project's goal is to track their development over 20 years.
The grant will allow Olson to study many of the children as they grow into adolescents, according to the report. Olson also hopes to track them into adulthood.
The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950.