A San Diego State University research team has uncovered groundbreaking findings regarding LGBTQ identity and childhood development.
This new study found that 1 percent of 9- and 10-year-olds self-identify as gay, bisexual, or transgender.
The surprising findings were published in the latest issue of JAMA Pediatrics. The article, "Child Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Cohort Study," was coauthored by researchers Jerel P. Calzo and Aaron J. Blashill.
"One percent is sizable, given that they are so young," Blashill said in a release published in Medical Xpress, an aggregator of science-related news.
The researchers collected their data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, a landmark study funded by the National Institutes of Health that tracks brain development in children over the long term. ABCD surveyed thousands of children across the United States, and the SDSU researchers drew from those surveyed in 2016 and 2017.
The findings, researchers said, could lead to a greater understanding of the development of human sexuality.
"For so long, social scientists have assumed that there is no point in asking kids at this age about their sexual orientation, believing they do not have the cognitive ability to understand," Blashill said. "This is the first study to actually ask children about their sexual orientation this young. It is important to have a baseline to understand how sexuality develops and how it may change over time."
Since LGBTQ youth are more at-risk for physical and mental health issues than their straight peers, this research could help save lives. Notably, a 9-year-old took his own life last month after coming out as gay to his classmates and being bullied, although it's impossible to know exactly what factors contributed to his suicide.
"If we can understand identity development earlier and can track development using large datasets, we can begin improving research and prevention around risk and protective factors," Calzo said.
The ABCD data is notable for also including parents in its survey. The SDCU team found that 7 percent of parents believed their child may be gay; 1.2 percent said their child may be transgender.