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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2011 Apr;32(2):170-82. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2011.02.006. Epub 2011 Feb 17.

Prenatal endocrine influences on sexual orientation and on sexually differentiated childhood behavior.

Author information

  • Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, University of Cambridge, UK. mh504@cam.ac.uk

Abstract

Both sexual orientation and sex-typical childhood behaviors, such as toy, playmate and activity preferences, show substantial sex differences, as well as substantial variability within each sex. In other species, behaviors that show sex differences are typically influenced by exposure to gonadal steroids, particularly testosterone and its metabolites, during early development (prenatally or neonatally). This article reviews the evidence regarding prenatal influences of gonadal steroids on human sexual orientation, as well as sex-typed childhood behaviors that predict subsequent sexual orientation. The evidence supports a role for prenatal testosterone exposure in the development of sex-typed interests in childhood, as well as in sexual orientation in later life, at least for some individuals. It appears, however, that other factors, in addition to hormones, play an important role in determining sexual orientation. These factors have not been well-characterized, but possibilities include direct genetic effects, and effects of maternal factors during pregnancy. Although a role for hormones during early development has been established, it also appears that there may be multiple pathways to a given sexual orientation outcome and some of these pathways may not involve hormones.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

PMID:
21333673
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3296090
Free PMC Article
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