Norms for transgender individuals
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Norms for transgender individuals


"Which norms should I use for transgender individuals?"

Ultimately, the decision on which norm group to use rests with the clinician. However, it may be helpful to think about the question more broadly, as in: “what does it mean to be compared to one "reference group" versus another?” The decisions that we make about normative comparisons have the potential to answer a variety of questions. They also contribute to a balanced and well-rounded clinical picture of complex situations.  Consequently, as clinicians, it’s important for us to consider this question within the context of how different reference group comparisons provide different types of information.

Therefore, the question may not be, “what is the correct norm group to use for a transgender student?” Rather, we might better ask, “which reference group comparison helps me to answer the questions to be addressed in my assessment?” Although the following example might not be appropriate nor typical, if we were asked: “What is S’s level of aggression as compared to boys of the same age? How about girls of the same age?” By using different reference groups, we could make the following statements: "When compared to boys her age, S scored within the average range on externalizing scales.  When compared to girls her age, however, her externalizing scores were slightly above average." This process is not terribly different from other types of custom comparisons made in the field of psychology and education (e.g., comparing to an in-patient hospitalization sample, or using a local norm sample for achievement).

Practically speaking, some examiners may be administratively constrained to reporting a single set of scores for program eligibility determination. In these situations, it is acceptable to use the student's self-reported gender. This is because presently, no efforts are made during standardization data collection to determine biological gender at birth. When collecting norms, our research teams have accepted the student's self-identification. Therefore, we presently have no specific data on the number of transgender students in our normative samples. However, due to the stringent nature in which we collect our samples, we believe that it mirrors the general population.  

In all cases, it is best practice to clearly indicate in the report which norms were used so that others who read the report can interpret the findings in the context intended by the examiner. For further clarity, we suggest that narrative statements in the interpretive report mention the reference group when appropriate. For example, rather than write "Sally scored slightly above average on extroversion", it would be clearer to write "Sally scored slightly above average on extroversion compared to other girls her age".  

While transgender individuals have not just suddenly appeared, it’s possible that what we, collectively as a field, believe to be best practice today may be different two or three years from now as more research emerges and clinical experience is gained in assessing transgender individuals. 

Response provided by: Gregory, L. and Weiss, L., Pearson Clinical Research and Development Group