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Acta Paediatr. 2011 Sep;100(9):e112-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2011.02260.x. Epub 2011 Apr 8.

Gender role behaviour in prenatally dexamethasone-treated children at risk for congenital adrenal hyperplasia--a pilot study.

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Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Centre for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet/Karolinska University Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden.



To investigate the effects of prenatal dexamethasone (DEX) exposure on gender role behaviour.


The participants were 25 of the 40 children (62%, mean age 11 years) at risk for CAH treated with DEX prenatally during the years 1985-1995 in Sweden. The control group consisted of 35 sex- and age-matched healthy children. A new inventory, the Karolinska Inventory of Gender Role Behaviour (KI-GRB), was developed to assess directly school-age children's behaviour, and was evaluated using a separate sample of 160 school-age children.


DEX-treated CAH-unaffected boys showed more neutral behaviours than the controls (p = 0.04), while the DEX-treated CAH-unaffected girls did not differ from the controls after adjusting for the site of residence. There was a larger variation in the behaviour of the DEX-treated boys (p < 0.05) and a tendency for less-masculine behaviours in the DEX-treated CAH-unaffected children (p = 0.13). There were no between-group differences in the feminine behaviours. Recalculation of the analyses including the CAH-affected children showed analogous results.


This pilot study indicates that the gender role behaviour may be affected in boys as an effect of DEX exposure in early pregnancy. Larger retrospective studies are needed for more conclusive results.

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