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Canadian Paediatric Society

How does gender identity develop? New resource helps facilitate conversation between doctors and parents

May 9 2018

OTTAWA — A new resource from the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) will help paediatricians discuss the complexities of gender identity with parents and caregivers.

“More and more, parents are asking us when and how gender identity typically develops in children, what is considered typical behaviour, and what they should expect at certain ages,” said Dr. Mike Dickinson, President of the CPS. “Paediatricians are well-positioned to answer these questions and help parents promote healthy gender development in their children.”

Gender development is often associated with puberty and adolescence, but children begin showing interest in their gender early in life. Although every child is unique and may develop at a different pace, most children have a strong sense of their gender identity by the time they are four years old.

This new CPS resource will help paediatricians answer common parental questions, and explain the differences between sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

“It’s common to confuse these terms. With a better understanding of their differences, parents can feel empowered and better support their children in being their authentic selves,” said Dr. Dickinson, a paediatrician in Miramichi, New Brunswick. “Children do best when their parents or caregivers love and accept them for who they are.”   

The resource – developed with guidance from the Child, Youth and Family Committee of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health and Gender Creative Kids Canada – also features a list of external resources that may be helpful to parents of transgender and gender diverse children.

For more information about gender identity and sexual orientation, visit


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About the Canadian Paediatric Society

The Canadian Paediatric Society is a national advocacy association that promotes the health needs of children and youth. Founded in 1922, the CPS represents more than 3,300 paediatricians, paediatric subspecialists and other child health professionals across Canada.

Last updated: May 9 2018