Parents’ coping experiences during gender transition of their transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) adolescent or adult child in the Hong Kong Chinese context

Hau Man Kaspar WAN

Research output: ThesisMaster's Theses


Transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) individuals refer to people whose gender identity and/or gender role, and gender expression differ from gender norms associated with their sex assigned at birth. Previous findings suggest that family acceptance and support are crucial to the mental health and adjustment of TGNC persons. However, TGNC persons’ parents also encounter distress during the gender transition of their child. The purpose of this study was to describe the essence of parents’ coping experiences during the gender transition of their TGNC adolescent or adult child. Using the qualitative methodology of phenomenology, a total of 14 in-depth face-to-face interviews were conducted (N = 14), including 8 parents of TGNC adolescents and adults, 3 TGNC adults and 3 helping professionals. All adolescent or adult child of the parent informants had disclosed to their parents their TGNC identity and desire to undergo a gender transition. At the time of data collection, the adolescent or adult child had started undergoing a gender transition socially and/or medically. The age range of the adolescent or adult child was between 14 and 45 years-old. The children of three parent informants were trans women or female-identified TGNC persons. The rest of the parents had trans man child. A non-binary identified TGNC person was recruited to provide insights, as the researcher was unable to recruit parent informants of non-binary identified persons. Expanding on the framework of relationship-focused coping and other supplementary lenses, a theoretical framework emerged during data analysis. The findings on parents’ coping experiences were divided into primary and secondary levels. Primary level experiences referred to the experiences related directly to the TGNC adolescent or adult child’s gender transition, such as the change of their child’s name, appearance and physical body, and issues within the parent-child relationship and immediate family relationships involving other parent(s). Secondary level experiences referred to the experiences resulted from their child’s gender transition, such as dealing with extended families and social environment. Based on the present findings, parents’ stress and coping experiences were mostly related to their child’s gender transition, i.e., at primary level, and were categorised into nine major themes as follows: i) empathic responding, ii) active engagement, iii) denial and opposition, iv) disengagement, v) compromise, vi) protective buffering; vii) detachment, viii) seeking emotional support (or lack thereof) for themselves, and ix) ambivalent behaviours. Secondary level coping was categorised as the tenth major theme. The characteristics of the parent-child relationships, such as parent-child closeness, were found to be salient aspects in parents’ coping experiences and adjustment process. Parents’ coping with the social context involving multiple interpersonal relationships was also revealed. The findings of this study contribute to the knowledge of TGNC persons and their families, especially in East Asia and the Chinese context. It also informs helping professionals in the emerging trans-affirmative practices to enhance adaptive adjustment for the under-studied group of parents, TGNC persons and their families. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • CHEUNG, Yuen Man Rebecca, Supervisor
  • FAIRBROTHER, Gregory Paul, Supervisor
  • WINTER, Sam, Supervisor, External person
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Parent
  • Coping
  • Transgender and gender non-conforming
  • Relationship
  • Gender transition
  • Alt. title: 父母在其跨性別子女性別過渡期間的應對經驗
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Mphil)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2019.


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