Gender identity: A possible concern for preschoolers?

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Gender identity: A possible concern for preschoolers?


My daughter is 4. She seems to have an attraction to male clothes, toys and friends. She's always saying, "I'm a boy." Even when she plays with her older sister, she insists on playing a male role — male doctor, male farmer, father. Is this something to be concerned about?

No state given


By age 2 or 3, most children establish a clear gender identity. Often, this understanding of being a boy or a girl is consistent with the child's anatomical sex — but not always. In fact, the type of behavior you describe is fairly common for a 4-year-old. There's no need to be concerned about your daughter preferring stereotypically male clothes or toys. Likewise, it isn't worrisome if a young boy likes to play with dolls or other traditionally feminine toys. Simply support and encourage your daughter in her interests and preferences. Avoid judging her, and don't feel guilty or embarrassed by her behavior.

If your daughter seems to struggle with her gender identity as she enters adolescence, you might consider speaking with her doctor, a school counselor or a mental health provider — especially if your daughter seems distressed by the fact that she's female. Together, you can determine how to address your daughter's gender-identity concerns. Individual or family counseling may be helpful.

Last Updated: 2009-01-06
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