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Stigma, Intrusiveness, and Distress in Parents of Intersex Children

Katherine A. Traino

Tuesday, 28 September 2021 at 11:00:00 pm UTC

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Previous research has demonstrated the experience of stigma among youth with conditions of intersexuality or differences of sex development (DSD) and their parents. Research has associated these stigma experiences with poorer adjustment outcomes among parents. However, mechanisms by which stigma impacts parent distress have not yet been examined. The present study aimed to apply a model from previous pediatric health literature (stigma --> intrusiveness --> distress) among parents of intersex/DSD children, such that parents’ stigma-related concerns may increase perceptions that their child’s intersex/DSD condition interferes with engagement in valued everyday life activities, which is then associated with increased distress. Results demonstrated that increased stigma was associated with increased intrusiveness, which in turn, was associated with increased depressive and anxious symptoms for parents nested within dyads. Exploratory analyses demonstrated that among children with family histories of intersex/DSD, parents indeed reported the experience of stigma. These findings support the hypothesis that parents who experience intersex-/DSD-related stigma report greater interference of their child’s condition into their daily activities, which is associated with poorer psychosocial adjustment. Future research and clinical intervention should discuss the role of parents’ perceptions of stigma and its impact on engagement in valued activities, disclosure/concealment, and psychosocial adjustment.

Katie Traino, M.S., is a fourth-year graduate student in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Oklahoma State University under the mentorship of Larry Mullins, Ph.D. Katie’s research interests broadly include short- and long-term child, parent, and family adjustment and functioning outcomes in the context of multiple pediatric complex medical populations. Katie also conducts collaborative research with families of children with diverse sex development, examining the role of factors such as stigma and cognitive appraisals (e.g., uncertainty) on family adjustment outcomes.

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