No parent ever wants to hear that their child is suffering from some kind of illness or disorder. It’s the sum of some parents’ worst fears. We worry that something we do or pass onto them will set them up for lifelong challenges that they must overcome. We stress that we won’t be able to spare them from the difficulties of living life in a disabled body, or with a brain that doesn’t quite think the way everyone else's does.
It still happens. Worrying about it rarely helps the situation. More and more children are being diagnosed with disorders each year, and few answers are being churned out as to why. Much of the increase in these illnesses is credited to better awareness. Others believe we are causing the childhood disorder epidemic through the use of too many drugs, pesticides and so forth.
Whatever we believe the cause to be, we’re left with millions of children that require strenuous treatment. Some parents are becoming so concerned about specific disorders — like autism, which is known to be far more common in boys — that they pray they’ll be blessed with only girls. On the flipside, some parents opt for gender selection with IVF just to avoid the daughter that they may pass a disorder onto. It’s a scary reality that our child’s gender alone could predispose them to more risk. This is how.
15 Boys: ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a highly controversial diagnosis. Many don’t believe the disorder is even real, but parents of the children diagnosed with it argue that their lives are extremely difficult because of it. Regardless of where we stand on the existence of ADHD and whether it’s an organic disorder or a label we’re slapping onto kids who won’t fall in line with societal norms, one thing is glaringly apparent: boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with it.
Why is this? Studies on the physical evidence of ADHD show no stark contrast between males and females, but their symptoms certainly do present differently. In boys, they tend to be hyperactive and struggle to complete tasks they are given. Whereas, in girls, they’re juggling too many tasks and jumping from one to the next constantly. This is just the tip of the iceberg. For the time being, science doesn’t seem to point to ADHD actually being more prevalent in males, but rather, symptoms that lead to diagnosis just being more obvious in males and subtler in females.
14 Boys: Autism
Autism affects 1 in 45 people now. Notably, the disorder affects far more males than females. Some people have begun to question whether this is really true — many of them placing the burden of discovery on the parents and assuming parents of girls may not be paying as much attention to development as parents of boys do. This is ridiculous and completely unfounded.
The truth of the matter is that autism is a developmental issue that indeed affects boys more. It is often rooted in brain damage that occurs either in utero or during the early developmental years. Everything from GMO foods crops laden with glyphosate to the heavy metals in vaccines, like aluminum, have been linked to this brain damage.
We have known for some time now that male infants are more vulnerable from the point of conception. Fewer of them even survive a pregnancy. Studies have also linked alterations in the X-chromosome in males to a heightened risk of autism. Autism is diagnosed in 1 in 42 boys while it is diagnosed among women at a rate of 1 in 189.
13 Girls: Rett Syndrome
This syndrome was once considered to be on the autism spectrum, but no longer is. Rett syndrome occurs due to a genetic disorder of the grey matter in the brain. It is caused by a mutation in the MECP2 gene of the X-chromosome.
For a long time, it was thought that this syndrome only occurred in females. However, cases have been diagnosed in males, though it is uncommon. While girls can thrive and live a fairly long life with Rett syndrome, boys only have one X-chromosome. For that reason, it is almost always fatal in boys. Still, a female with Rett syndrome only has a 50 percent or greater chance of living until age 50, compared to a regular person without Rett syndrome, who has a 50 percent or greater chance of living to be 80.
Rett syndrome is genetic, but it is not hereditary in 99.9 percent of cases. Most cases of it are random and epigenetic. As of 2006, only 11 boys had ever been diagnosed with the syndrome.
12 Boys: Fragile X Syndrome
The males get hit again when it comes to this disorder. Fragile X syndrome, also known as Martin-Bell syndrome, stands out to parents early in their child’s life when developmental delays start springing into action. By roughly age two, most kids with FXS are showing signs of it. They may have trouble with speech — if they talk at all — and often have behavioral side effects due to learning disabilities.
FXS is genetic. It is caused when the FMR1 gene located on the X-chromosome expands and mutates. This gene mutation can only be passed in part by fathers, but mothers pass the full mutation to their children. Thus, it is hereditary.
Roughly 1 million American women carry the FXS gene premutation; whereas, just 1 in 468 men do (a little over 300,000 American men). Approximately 1 in every 4,000 to 6,000 females are diagnosed with FXS while the rate is closer to 1 in 3,600 to 4,000 in males.
11 Girls: Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are by far the top disorder with the starkest contrast between genders. While they do indeed affect males, they account for only one-third of the people who are suffering from eating disorders in America — which is roughly 30 million people.
Females are by far at the greater disadvantage here, and most of them are struggling with anorexia nervosa or bulimia. The diagnosis of eating disorders also include binge eating disorder and eating disorders not otherwise specified.
Parents often think they don’t have to worry about their kids being concerned with their weight until the teenage years, but 40 to 60 percent of kids aged six to twelve are actually worried about their body and the possibility of gaining what they deem to be too much weight. This is often how eating disorders begin, and the media, parents and peers play a significant role in it. But it is still believed there are genetic issues at play that make some children more susceptible to engaging in starvation tactics or bingeing and purging.
10 Boys: Stuttering
While may people have come to believe stuttering and stammering stems from speech issues, it’s actually more tightly linked to developmental delays and brain abnormalities.
Among kids who struggle with a stutter, this speech abnormality resolves for roughly three quarters of them. The remaining quarter may carry on with a stutter for the rest of their lives. While a stutter impacts the child’s learning abilities early in life, it doesn’t tend to delay cognitive expansion much. It’s an issue that mostly effects the child’s communication with parents and caregivers.
Increased difficulty arises later in life when a stutter has failed to resolve. Children can be cruel and a teen with a stutter is often a target for ridicule and practical jokes. Stuttering is less common in females. Among children of elementary school age, boys have a three-to four-fold increased risk of stuttering compared to girls.
9 Boys: Conduct Disorder
Often classified as being antisocial, children who are diagnosed with conduct disorder often present with symptoms early in life, but it is possible to develop symptoms later on. Many individuals are not diagnosed until adolescence. Among them, far more boys are diagnosed with conduct disorder than girls.
Symptoms of conduct disorder are variable, but they typically include aggressive behavior from the child and a lack of respect for boundaries. These kids often engage in acts that deliberately harm other people or their property. Roughly 6 to 16 percent of boys are diagnosed with conduct disorder, compared to 2 to 9 percent of girls.
Yes, it’s a pretty high number among the general population. Conduct disorder is just as controversial as ADHD among parents. Many question whether it is truly a disorder or if it’s just a social construct that the medical industry has put into place to label children who aren’t following all the rules — and often medicate them into submission.
8 Girls: Depression And Anxiety
It goes without saying in this day and age that mental health conditions have swept the nation. Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health disorders that exist. When these conditions present in children, the symptoms can look quite different than what we expect from adults.
Children suffering from depression may become angry and express bouts of rage that are masked as tantrums requiring more discipline. Those with anxiety may just seem introverted and shy. Parents may choose to thrust these children into play groups and peer networks that only end up worsening their misunderstood anxiety.
Among children, roughly 2 percent suffer from depression in their prepubescent years, and that figure jumps to 5 to 8 percent among adolescents. Among children aged 13 to 18, 25.1 percent are affected by an anxiety disorder, and another 5.9 percent by severe forms of anxiety. Depression and anxiety both affect females more than males, and they are more likely to occur earlier in life in females than males, as well.
7 Boys: Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Children with this disorder tend to have explosive personalities from very early on in life. Not surprisingly, this disorder is also diagnosed far more in males than females. It is defined as a disorder in children that causes the child to disrespect authority figures and challenge their boundaries. In a nutshell, these kids don’t listen to grown-ups very well. It is thought of as a less severe form of conduct disorder.
It is estimated that around 11 percent of boys have ODD while 9 percent of girls do post-puberty. Interestingly, far more boys are diagnosed with it prior to puberty. Many professionals and parents alike also question the existence of ODD and feel it’s unnecessary to label a difficult child that challenges authority with a mental health disorder. Nonetheless, the diagnoses appear to be rising.
6 Split: Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder has remained in the spotlight for many years as an emerging psychiatric disorder that has taken the media by storm just as much as the people who are affected by it. Contrary to popular belief, bipolar disorder does not merely make someone hot and cold or indecisive. But it does pull them in two opposite directions. One day they may feel very depressed and blue, and the next they might be ready to take on the world and explore everything around them.
Bipolar disorder is hereditary. If a parent has the condition, their children have a 15 to 30 percent risk of developing it. If both parents have bipolar disorder, the risk jumps to 50 to 75 percent. Children with bipolar disorder may experience bouts of rage in which parents struggle to control or reprimand them. They often act out with violent and aggressive behavior.
Bipolar disorder is not diagnosed in children as often as it is in adults. It is thought that as much as one-third of the 3.4 million kids who are struggling with depression may actually be experiencing early-onset bipolar disorder. Studies show that the disorder affects 1 to 5 percent of children and teens. There are five types of bipolar. Bipolar I affects more boys, while rapid cycling bipolar and bipolar II affect more girls.
5 Boys: Gender Identity Disorder
This disorder is steadily increasing in both occurrence and popularity. Yes, it’s true that gender confusion has become a bit of a trending thing to do among some kids. Unfortunately, this does a real disservice to the individuals who truly suffer with gender identity disorder, also known as gender dysphoria. It is far more common among males than females.
Roughly 0.002 to 0.003 percent of people who are born as a female will develop gender dysphoria, compared to 0.005 to 0.014 percent of those who are born male. Not all of these individuals will pursue a life as the opposite gender, and even fewer will seek sexual reassignment surgery. This surgery is sought by 1 in every 30,000 adult men and just 1 in every 100,000 adult women. Individuals suffering from gender dysphoria feel they were born the opposite gender and are stuck in the wrong physical body.
4 Girls: Kleptomania
Often ridiculed and referenced to describe people with a tendency to steal, kleptomania is not to be taken lightly. This disorder goes far deeper than a teenager’s five-finger discount. The compulsions that drive these kids to steal are unnerving and frightful — for both the child and their parents. Moms and dads often worry about taking their kids into public venues and feel they must keep a watchful eye on them at all times, no matter how old they get.
Around 0.6 percent of the general population meets the diagnostic criteria for kleptomania, which is an impulse control disorder. Kleptomania is actually three times as common in females as it is in males. Interestingly, many people who have kleptomania do not develop it until later in life. This has led to treatment for children with the disorder being very hard to come by.
3 Boys: Intermittent Explosive Disorder
As many as 16 million people struggle with the effects of intermittent explosive disorder. It is highly common in children and teenagers — many of whom later go on to develop comorbid conditions, like substance abuse habits and depression. The disorder is marked by volatile changes in one’s mood — often before a triggering event even occurs. After a rage-filled outburst, the individual feels guilt and sorrow over their behavior.
Overall, IED is most common in people who have a family history of substance abuse and mood disorders. Across both genders, males are affected more than females are. IED is one of the most common mental health disorders diagnosed in children, with a reported 1 in 12 adolescents being affected by it. Most of these kids also have another co-occurring condition.
2 Boys: Tourette’s Syndrome
It is thought that around 0.3 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 17 have Tourette’s Syndrome, but the numbers vary among surveys. Tourette’s can develop as early as two-years old, but many people don’t develop it until adolescence or even in their early twenties.
TS does not generally impact one’s quality of life so much that they are disabled. It is not a degenerative disorder. Rather, it causes tics and verbal outbursts. Sometimes, it may cause the child to utter obscenities.
This can be embarrassing, and counseling is often recommended for children who are trying to adjust to life with TS in a world full of seemingly neurotypical kids. There are medicated treatment options for TS. In addition, some cases have been completely resolved through diet and other natural health measures. Tourette’s exists in 1 to 10 in 1,000 children — more of them being boys than girls.
1 Boys: Dyslexia
A lot of people misunderstand this disorder. Most think it’s nothing more than mixing up words and letters, or getting things backwards sometimes. In reality, people with dyslexia are still very bright individuals; they just struggle to learn how to read and understand language and grammar.
There are several language-based learning disorders, but dyslexia is the most common one. Nearly 20 percent of children are affected by this class of disorders. Among people who struggle to read, up to 80 percent probably have dyslexia.
When mom or dad have dyslexia, children have a 50 percent risk of developing it. When both parents have it, the child has nearly a 100 percent chance of also having it. Despite previous claims that dyslexia affected both genders equally, new studies have emerged showing a greater proportion of diagnoses falling on boys than girls. Males are at least two times as likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. A study that analyzed over 10,000 kids reported 18 to 22 percent of males having dyslexia, compared to only 8 to 13 percent of females.
Sources: Healthline, Washington Post, Autism Support Network, CDC, Healthline, NICHD, RettSyndrome.org, Science Daily, National Fragile X Foundation, NEDA, AAFP, NIMH, NIDCD, Medical News Today, IJPBS, ASHA, Mental Health America, My VMC, Bipolar Lives, MHA, AAMFT, DSM-5, Health Research Funding, Healthy Place, Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, NIH, RRTF, Genetics Home Reference, Dyslexia Center of Utah, Do Something, NBC News