Vol. 9, No. 4, 2003 Page 1


A new study adds to evidence linking high levels of androgens ("male" hormones, including testosterone) to chronic antisocial or disruptive behavior.

Noting that the link between elevated androgens and aggression has been documented in male offenders, Athanasios Maras and colleagues decided to see if the same association held true for "at-risk" teenaged boys and girls. (Females also produce androgens, although in much smaller amounts than males.)

The researchers tested plasma levels of the two primary androgen metabolites, testosterone and 5-alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), in 87 14-year-olds, 36 of whom were male and 51 of whom were female. Data on the children's levels of externalizing behavior were available from tests conducted when they were 8, 11, and 14 years of age.

Significantly higher levels of both testosterone and DHT were seen in males with high levels of externalizing behavior, Maras and colleagues report. "Moreover," they say, "boys with persistent externalizing behavior exhibited the highest levels of plasma androgens." There was no association between androgen levels and aggression in females.

The researchers conclude, "Due to the findings of higher androgen levels in boys with persistent externalizing behavior, a role of androgens in the development of disruptive or later antisocial disorders can be hypothesized."

The researchers' findings are consistent with an earlier study by Stephanie van Goozen and colleagues (see related article, Crime Times, 1998, Vol. 4, No. 2, Page 6 & 7), who measured levels of the androgen DHEAS in 15 aggressive and antisocial boys diagnosed with conduct disorder, and in 25 controls. All of the subjects in this earlier study were between 8 and 12 years of age, a time during which androgen levels gradually increase. Van Goozen and colleagues found that the boys with conduct disorder had significantly higher levels of DHEAS, and that "DHEAS levels were significantly positively correlated with the intensity of aggression and delinquency as rated by both parents and teachers."


"Association of testosterone and dihydrotestosterone with externalizing behavior in adolescent boys and girls," A. Maras, M. Laucht, D. Gerdes, C. Wilhelm, S. Lewicka, D. Haack, L. Malisova, and M. H. Schmidt, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Vol. 28, No. 7, October 2003, 932-40. Address: Athanasios Maras, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental Health, P.O. Box 122120, 68072 Mannheim, Germany.

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