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Arch Sex Behav. 2009 Jun;38(3):442-55. Epub 2007 Oct 18.

Anxiety, sex-linked behaviors, and digit ratios (2D:4D).

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Texas A & M University, College Station, TX 77845, USA.


The second to fourth (2D:4D) digit ratio, a sexually dimorphic, phenotypic characteristic putatively associated with perinatal androgen action, has been used to evaluate the hypothesized relation between prenatal hormonal factors and a variety of sexually dimorphic behaviors, including sex-linked psychopathology. Smaller digit ratios, suggestive of stronger perinatal androgen action, have been associated with male-linked disorders (e.g., autism), and larger digit ratios, suggestive of weaker perinatal androgen action, have been associated with female-linked disorders (e.g., depression and eating disorders). To evaluate the possible relation between digit ratio and another traditionally female-linked disorder, anxiety, 2D:4D ratios were measured in a non-clinical sample (58 men, 52 women). Participants also completed a battery of anxiety and gender role measures and performed two spatial/cognitive tasks typically showing a male advantage (mental rotation and targeting) and two tasks typically showing a female advantage (location memory and spatial working memory). Men with a more feminine pattern of sex-linked traits and behaviors (including digit ratios) reported greater anxiety. In contrast, greater anxiety in women was associated with both female-typical and male-typical traits and behaviors, but and no significant association between digit ratio and anxiety was found. This pattern of results suggests that the development of anxiety is multiply determined, with contributing factors varying by sex.

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