Prenatal female hormone administration and psychosexual development in human males

Human personality is associated with prenatal hormone exposure


ScienceDirect Psychoneuroendocrinology, doi:10.1016/0306-4530(80)90032-3, Volume 5, Issue 4, 1980, Pages 269–285 and Popline Document Number: 001953, node/460051, 1980 Dec.

Male personality by Meghana Kulkarni.

  • Considerable data exist from animal research relating prenatal hormone levels to postnatal behaviors in the male. The data from human males are few. One strategy for testing this association is the study of humans exposed prenatally to exogenous ‘pregnancy maintaining hormones’.
  • A follow-up study was conducted on 62 adult males prenatally exposed to exogenous sex hormones. Fifty-eight young adult males exposed to one of four hormone regimens were matched against nonhormone exposed controls. There were 17 males exposed to diethylstilbestrol (DES), 22 exposed to DES and natural progesterone, 10 to natural progesterone only, and 13 to synthetic progesterone.
  • Subjects were interviewed – to ascertain their psychosexual development during boyhood and adolescence and sexual functioning during adolescence and adulthood – and administered the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (BSRI), the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey (GZTS), the Strong Vocational Interest Blank (SVIB), and the Embedded Figures Test (EFT).
  • The specific drug, total dosage, and time of drug administration i.e., the trimester of exposure, were significantly associated with several aspects of boyhood, adolescent, and adult psychosexual development on interview and with differences in scales of the psychometric tests.
  • The behavior of subjects exposed to each substance was compared to the control behavior and to behavior of those exposed to other substances. The femininity scale was elevated for 3 of the 4 drug regimens but not for the natural progesterone group.
  • The most contrasting boyhood behaviors were between those exposed to progesterone and DES. Progesterone subjects tended to recall boyhood behaviors which departed from the conventional male mode toward ‘femininity’. The DES subjects tended to recall the most conventionally ‘masculine’ boyhoods. During adulthood, DES plus natural progesterone subjects reported a high sex drive while synthetic progesterone subjects reported a low sex drive. Erectile failure was more often reported by subjects exposed to natural progesterone only.
  • Three drug regimens were associated with elevations of the Feminine scale of the BSRI and two with elevations of the feminine scale of the GZTS.
  • The rates of homosexual behavior were comparable for drug and non-drug-exposed subjects.
  • The study illustrates that human personality is associated with prenatal hormone exposure.

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