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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003 Apr;28(3):288-303.

Sexual orientation and the 2nd to 4th finger length ratio: evidence for organising effects of sex hormones or developmental instability?

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Department of Psychology, Institute of Psychiatry, University of London, De Crespigny Park, UK.


It has been proposed that human sexual orientation is influenced by prenatal sex hormones. Some evidence examining putative somatic markers of prenatal sex hormones supports this assumption. An alternative suggestion has been that homosexuality may be due to general developmental disruptions independent of hormonal effects. This study investigated the ratio of the 2nd to 4th finger digits (the 2D:4D ratio), a measure often ascribed to the organisational actions of prenatal androgens, and the fluctuating asymmetry (FA-a measure of general developmental disruption) of these features, in a sample of 240 healthy, right handed and exclusively heterosexual and homosexual males and females (N=60 per group). Homosexual males and females showed significantly lower 2D:4D ratios in comparison to heterosexuals, but sexual orientation did not relate to any measures of FA. The evidence may suggest that homosexual males and females have been exposed to non-disruptive, but elevated levels of androgens in utero. However, these data also draw attention to difficulties in the interpretation of results when somatic features are employed as biological markers of prenatal hormonal influences.

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