Studies show that early exposure to testosterone predicts gender-role behavior in boys

According to a new study, low exposure to gonadal hormones in early pregnancy and infancy suggests an increase in childhood gender mismatch in men. Psychological science. Studies show that androgens, such as testosterone, play a role in the development of male gender behavior in childhood.

“Biology is probably the most important factor explaining people’s sexual variability, and many diseases, including depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – vary in gender and prevalence. / or severity. Understanding the development of psychological gender differences is critical to understanding individual differences in mental health, ”said study author David A.

“Studies in laboratory animals have shown that behavioral gender differences depend on the effect of testosterone on the expression of genes in the developing brain. However, in humans, many behavioral sex differences depend on socialization as boys or girls. We wanted to find out whether sex differences are the only cause or whether testosterone can directly affect brain development in other mammals.

For the study, the researchers recruited 65 male samples from idiopathic hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (also known as isolated gonadotropin-releasing hormone deficiency), a rare endocrine disorder that affected about 1 in 130,000 live births.

“Men with IHH were male at birth and grew up to be boys, and almost always their condition was not known until the typical period of puberty,” Puts told PsyPost. “However, they were less exposed to testosterone from the second trimester of pregnancy until they started hormone replacement therapy. Working with people with IHH eliminated the direct effects of testosterone on the brain. Developing the role of gender socialization by comparing men with IHH to people without IHH . The two groups grew up to be homosexual, but differed sharply in their initial exposure to testosterone.

Men with IHH, 32 women with IHH, 463 normal developing men, and 1,207 normal developing women filled out a questionnaire on childhood gender mismatch, in which they were asked about peer preferences, toy selection, dressing play, and fantasy. game, and youth career aspirations.

Researchers have found that men with IHH tend to have less childhood stereotypical masculine behavior than men who develop it. In other words, men with IHH remember preferring girls as lovers, experimenting with makeup and jewelry, wearing girls’ or women’s clothing when playing “dressing up”, feeling less masculine than their peers, and not feeling well. a boy. This is especially true for men who have had birth control tests that show signs of low perinatal androgens.

“We found that men with IHH were generally less likely to respond to childhood gender roles than developing men, and that some variations in gender-role behavior are due to a direct effect of testosterone on gene expression in the developing brain.” Puts told PsyPost.

Unlike men, women with a doctor-confirmed diagnosis of IHH did not differ from normal developing women in childhood gender mismatch. Putz and colleagues also noted that the behaviors of men with IHH in childhood were more similar to those of normal developing men than women, suggesting that although the effects of these hormones played an important role in behavior, they did not tell the whole story.

“The average person should see this not as evidence against the role of gender socialization, but as evidence of the side effects of sex hormones such as testosterone that directly affect the developing brain,” Putts explained. “People who are exposed to different levels of testosterone during early development, although socialized in the same way, may differ in psychology and behavior.”

Studies are consistent with the study of experimental animals, which found that the effects of androgens change the brain and behavior of men.

“We also need to encourage that the thousands of hours and millions of dollars spent on researching the effects of sex hormones on the brains and behavior of experimental animals are not wasted,” Putts said. “There are important similarities that can help us understand how our brains and behaviors evolve.”

But the study, like all studies, contains some caveats.

“From a solid scientific point of view, the biggest limitation of this study is that it is not experimental,” Putts explained. “Participants were not randomly divided into groups for obvious ethical reasons and then treated or discontinued with testosterone. Therefore, men with IHH, for example, may consider their childhood gender role differently than men without IHH because they know their status. We suspect that the trend is to remember childhood, which is not less but more gender-specific, so the differences may actually be bigger than we can measure, but we don’t know that.

“Low perinatal androgens predict male gender incompatibility in childhood,” said Talia N. in a study. Shirazi, Heather Sef, Kevin A. Rosenfield, Hitam David, Lisa L.M. Welling, Rodrigo Cardenas, J.J. Michael Bailey, Ravikumar Balasubramanian, Angela Delani, S.C. Mark Breedlove and David A. Puts.

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