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Horm Behav. 2008 Aug;54(2):340-6. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.02.017. Epub 2008 Mar 7.

2d:4d, sex steroid hormones and human psychological sex differences.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, University of Ghent, Korte Meer 5, Ghent 9000, Belgium.


Studies on 2d:4d, the ratio between the second and the fourth digit, as a possible indicator of prenatal androgen exposure, have failed to produce consistent results. This paper analyzes the relation between 2d:4d, sex steroids and well-documented sex differences in characteristics such as depression, dominance, and aggressive (ART) and non-aggressive adolescent risk-taking (NART) in a comparatively large sample of adolescent boys (N=301, mean age: 14.4 years) and girls (N=298, mean age: 14.3 years). Boys had on average a lower 2d:4d than girls (F=42.15; p<0.001). With respect to boys, controlling for age and pubertal development (PD), a small but marginally significant positive association was found between 2d:4d and total testosterone (TT) (r=0.11; p<0.05). In girls a significant association was found between 2d:4d and SHBG (r=0.18; p<0.01). However, relationships between 2d:4d and hormones depended on the phase of the menstrual cycle, with 2d:4d being negatively associated with FT (B=-0.013; p<0.05) once a positive association between 2d:4d and FT for girls in the mid-cycle group (B=0.019; p<0.01) is taken into account. With respect to sex differences in characteristics, we found evidence of a relationship between 2d:4d and depression in boys (r=-0.14; p<0.05) but not between 2d:4d and dominance, ART or NART. No relationships were found between 2d:4d and any of these variables in girls.

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