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Teaching Adolesence

The Psychological and Health Consequences of Policies Denying the Existence of Transgender and Intersex Adolescents

This statement was prepared with the support and input of the Diversity and Equity Committee.

The Society for Research on Adolescence is dedicated to advancing understanding of adolescence and to enhancing the well-being of youth in a globalized world, including adolescents with diverse gender identities and expressions. As an organization, we voice concerns that the research on this vulnerable population of young people contradicts recently proposed changes to the U.S. Health and Human Services definition of sex and gender.

Proposed changes to the definitions of sex and gender under Title VII and Title IX—definitions that courts have used to provide protections for transgender and intersex adolescents in schools and in the employment sector—would redefine “sex” in civil rights law as determined at birth and unchangeable. Yet, decades of scientific research from multiple disciplines demonstrates that a person’s gender is not determined by sex assigned at birth. This research also shows that sex is not binary (i.e., only male and female); indeed, intersex people—those whose reproductive or sexual anatomy does not meet the characteristics of stereotypical male and female bodies—represent nearly 1 in 1,500 to 1 in 2,000 births.

Numerous studies have documented that adolescents whose gender identity is affirmed, including being referred to by the correct name and pronouns, report better psychological and physical health. Conversely, research also documents that experiences of invalidation and rejection undermine psychological and physical health. These two lines of research suggest that a lack of legal recognition of transgender and intersex youth, which could block their access to resources and facilities consistent with their identity, can undermine their current and future adjustment and functioning.

The proposed exclusion of transgender and intersex adolescents from federal protections, therefore, is at odds with evidence related to adolescents’ well-being in addition to being a basic human rights issue. We encourage policy leaders and researchers to be aware of the potential damaging effects of the proposed changes to the federal interpretations and applications of the definitions of gender and sex for adolescents and their families.

Suggested Readings

On the Wellbeing of Adolescents

Statement from President Robert Crosnoe

Like many of you, I spent last week thinking about and talking about the separation of children from their parents at the U.S. border. I have been engaged with this issue personally but also as a developmental scientist who studies young people, including young people growing up in immigrant families.

Not surprisingly, this issue has also prompted much discussion among the leadership of the Society for Research on Adolescence about the role of scientific organizations in significant and contentious debates about policy. We strongly believe that, as experts on the lives of adolescents, we need to be involved in these kinds of debates, that our organization’s legal status does not preclude us from weighing in as a scientific voice, that we need to work on ways to be nimble and proactive in doing so, and that we need to help better scaffold the participation of our members in such an important process.

As for the specific issue of the separation of families at the border, we have valuable and relevant evidence that needs to be shared. In this case, the evidence published in the pages of our journal and presented in the symposia of our meetings shows that the maintenance of a close and committed bond between parents and their children is a fundamental component of positive and healthy development. Although much of the discussion of such evidence in the public focuses on young children, the harm of threats to that bond—and of trauma more generally—is also very real to adolescents.  It can be manifested in the short term but also in the years to come as adolescents grow into adults. That is why the mid-week decision against separations—which came as we were still considering the best way to offer our scientific view of the issue—is clearly consistent with scientific evidence.

Last Wednesday’s decision does not mean that this issue or related issues (e.g., the developmental effects of detention and immigration proceedings on families and unaccompanied minors) simply goes away.  Certainly, there also will be more issues concerning the wellbeing of adolescents coming our way in the future.  That is why the leadership of the society is committed to supporting its members, when they have expertise and evidence that can be brought to bear. That includes participation in policy discussions but also in more public communication, such as helping parents talk to adolescents about issues of social justice.  Our various committees—including Media and Communications, Social Policy, Diversity and Equity, and Consensus—will be working on ways to help facilitate the translation of the research conducted by individual members and member groups into public use where appropriate.

Family separation is not the first issue that has galvanized members of this society, and it will not be the last.  The goal we will work towards in the year ahead in the society is to better position us—as individual scientists and as a collective—to inform understanding of these issues in timely, constructive, and effective ways.

Announcing SRA Small Grants for Emerging Scholars – CRDC

SRA is pleased to announce that submissions are now being accepted for small grants for emerging scholars (graduate trainees through 5 years post-PhD) to analyze new data from the United States Department of Education Civil Rights Data Collection. The program will provide support for two grants of $1,750. This program is made possible with a generous grant from the Atlantic Philanthropies.

Information about the CRDC data is provided below.

Proposals should be no longer than 3 single-spaced pages (12 point font, Times New Roman, one-inch margins) and should include background, research questions, methods, and potential significance of the research for policy, practice and/or theory building. Up to 5 references may be included but are not counted toward the 3-page limit. A 500 word abstract (that will be publicly shared) and detailed budget should also be included (but is not part of the page limit).

We strongly encourage:

  • Funds may be used as stipends for emerging scholars
  • Applications from emerging scholar / mentor pairs
  • Stated willingness to communicate and potentially coordinate with the other grantee and members of the awards committee about research questions and analyses
  • Analyses of disparities based on race/ethnicity, gender, or disability status
  • Analyses of exclusionary discipline (e.g., school suspensions and expulsions)

Awardees will be expected to provide a report that will be due January 1st, 2015. They will also be encouraged to submit the results of their work for consideration at the 2016 SRA Biennial Meeting.

Submit proposals and the CV of the Emerging Scholar (and mentor) to the SRA office at The deadline for proposals is May 31, 2014. Decisions will be announced by July 1.

About the CRDC:

The Departments of Education and Justice released the CRDC data for 2011-12 in March, 2014.

The Department of Education has posted highlights from the newest CRDC data:

A briefing paper series from the Research-to-Practice Collaborative was funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, and outlines the state of research, policy, and practice related to disparities in discipline:

Small Working Group Meetings

Envisioning the Future of Our Science:
Request for Proposals for SRA-Sponsored Small Working Group Meetings

SRA small groups envision the future of our science. Within a given domain, where is the research on adolescence heading? What are the most significant gaps and what specific research is needed to address those gaps? What are the funding opportunities and social policy implications associated with addressing those gaps?
SRA funded three working groups with a specific goal of envisioning and influencing the future or our science. Our purpose is to strategically fund groups to meet and develop future research directions and priorities to the benefit of the field, SRA and our members.
Reconceptualizing the Parenting of Adolescents
The New Biobehavioral Developmental Science of Puberty


Adolescent-Related Events

Sign up to register and for updates or obtain further information at . an event to our listing? Please email your event to Conference announcements will remain on our website until the date of the event.

18th European Conference on Developmental Psychology
Utrecht, Netherlands
August 29 – September 1, 2017

The European Association for Developmental Psychology (EADP) is pleased to announce that the abstract submission website is now open for the 18th biennial European Conference on Developmental Psychology ECDP2017.

We welcome submissions for Paper presentations, Poster presentations, Paper symposia, and Poster symposia, and encourage proposals from a wide variety of disciplines on topics related to human development.

Abstract submission deadline: February 13, 2017

To submit your abstract go to the submission portal and follow the instructions appearing in the online submission portal.

We are pleased to announce the keynote speakers for ECDP2017: Rutger Engels, Catrin Finkenauer, Elliot Turiel, Henry Wellman, and Sonia Livingstone.

For more information on the EADP, organization, and Utrecht, click here.

15th General Meeting of the European Council on Eating Disorders (ECED)
September 7-9, 2017
Vilnius, capital city of Lithuania

ISSBD (International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development) Conference 2018
July  15 – 19, 2018
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
The 2018 Conference will feature a jam packed scientific program featuring scholars and students from around the world, who are carrying out research on human development from infancy to late life. From early 2017 students and scholars are invited to submit abstracts on their research for selection to be part of the scientific program. Research on all segments of lifespan development are welcome.
More information, including a full program can be found on our website here. Pricing for registrations can be found here.


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