Evardone, Milagros (2003-05). Sex differences in anxiety: testing a prenatal androgen hypothesis using behavioral and physiological markers. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • The majority of studies examining the role of prenatal androgens on abnormal behavior have focused on developmental disorders showing large male to female ratios (i.e., autism and Tourette's Syndrome). There is a scarcity of research examining the role of prenatal sex hormones on female-linked disorders or disorders showing adult onset. This study is the first to evaluate the organizational and activational influences of sex hormones on adult levels of anxiety, while simultaneously examining previously reported hormone-behavior associations. In addition, this study explores the relation between prenatal and postnatal sex hormones and two other female-linked disorders, depression and borderline personality. As part of this study, participants (n = 110) completed a battery of psychopathology questionnaires, gender role measures, and spatial/cognitive tasks. Prenatal androgen levels were indirectly measured by means of the index to ring finger ratio (2D:4D), and testosterone and estrogen levels were obtained from saliva samples. Results replicate previously reported sex differences in anxiety and gendered behavior and confirm various hormone-behavior associations. More importantly, results provide preliminary evidence for the organizational role of prenatal androgens in two female-linked conditions, anxiety and borderline personality. Individuals with a higher (i.e., more feminine) 2D:4D reported greater symptoms of trait anxiety and borderline personality (i.e., affective instability), and this effect appeared to be strongest in males.

publication date

  • May 2003