Hormone-Linked Problems Reflect Parent-Child Bond. (Testosterone's Family Ties)

By Bower, B. | Science News, January 18, 2003 | Go to article overview
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Hormone-Linked Problems Reflect Parent-Child Bond. (Testosterone's Family Ties)


Bower, B., Science News


Testosterone has a public reputation as the hormone that turns men into boisterous louts at best and violent criminals at worst.

New evidence is challenging that. Witness a new study that finds no link between testosterone concentrations and either delinquent behavior or depression in children and teenagers of both sexes--that is, if relations with parents are close.

The behavior and mood problems traditionally blamed on testosterone most often appear in boys and girls with poor parental relations, says sociologist Alan Booth of Pennsylvania State University in State College. In the new study, high-testosterone boys who related well to their mothers engaged in far fewer delinquent acts than low-testosterone boys who got on poorly with their mothers, Booth and his colleagues report in the January Developmental Psychology.

"Children's testosterone levels create behavioral predispositions that get modified by the quality of parent-child relationships," Booth theorizes.

As a hormone that shapes masculine physical features, testosterone occurs in small amounts in females and much larger amounts in males. Among men, many studies have associated high testosterone concentrations with aggressive and risk-taking behaviors and low testosterone concentrations with depression. However, some studies have failed to find links between men's testosterone levels and behavior or mood problems. Only a few studies have addressed this issue in women or in children.

The new investigation by Booth's group focused on 400 middle-class families in Pennsylvania.

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