Postnatal penile growth concurrent with mini-puberty predicts later sex-typed play behavior: Evidence for neurobehavioral effects of the postnatal androgen surge in typically developing boys

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Abstract

The masculinizing effects of prenatal androgens on human neurobehavioral development are well established. Also, the early postnatal surge of androgens in male infants, or mini- puberty, has been well documented and is known to influence physiological development, including penile growth. However, neurobehavioral effects of androgen exposure during mini-puberty are largely unknown. The main aim of the current study was to evaluate possible neurobehavioral consequences of mini-puberty by relating penile growth in the early postnatal period to subsequent behavior. Using multiple linear regression, we demonstrated that penile growth between birth and three months postnatal, concurrent with mini-puberty, significantly predicted increased masculine/decreased feminine behavior assessed using the Pre-school Activities Inventory (PSAI) in 81 healthy boys at 3 to 4. years of age. When we controlled for other potential influences on masculine/feminine behavior and/or penile growth, including variance in androgen exposure prenatally and body growth postnally, the predictive value of penile growth in the early postnatal period persisted. More specifically, prenatal androgen exposure, reflected in the measurement of anogenital distance (AGD), and early postnatal androgen exposure, reflected in penile growth from birth to 3. months, were significant predictors of increased masculine/decreased feminine behavior, with each accounting for unique variance. Our findings suggest that independent associations of PSAI with AGD at birth and with penile growth during mini-puberty reflect prenatal and early postnatal androgen exposures respectively. Thus, we provide a novel and readily available approach for assessing effects of early androgen exposures, as well as novel evidence that early postnatal aes human neurobehavioral development.

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Pasterski, V., Acerini, C. L., Dunger, D. B., Ong, K. K., Hughes, I. A., Thankamony, A., & Hines, M. (2015). Postnatal penile growth concurrent with mini-puberty predicts later sex-typed play behavior: Evidence for neurobehavioral effects of the postnatal androgen surge in typically developing boys. Hormones and Behavior, 69, 98–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2015.01.002

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