There is now good evidence that human sex-typed behavior is influenced by sex hormones that are present during prenatal development, confirming studies in other mammalian species. Most of the evidence comes from clinical populations, in which prenatal hormone exposure is atypical for a person's sex, but there is increasing evidence from the normal population for the importance of prenatal hormones. In this paper, we briefly review the evidence, focusing attention on the methods used to study behavioral effects of prenatal hormones. We discuss the promises and pitfalls of various types of studies, including those using clinical populations (concentrating on those most commonly studied, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, androgen insensitivity syndrome, ablatio penis, and cloacal exstrophy), direct measures of hormones in the general population (assayed through umbilical cord blood, amniotic fluid, and maternal serum during pregnancy), and indirect measures of hormones in the general population (inferred from intrauterine position and biomarkers such as otoacoustic emissions, finger length ratios, and dermatoglyphic asymmetries). We conclude with suggestions for interpreting and conducting studies of the behavioral effects of prenatal hormones.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience