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Horm Behav. 1996 Dec;30(4):300-18.

Psychosexual development of women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

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Child and Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic, Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) (N = 31) and their unaffected sisters or female cousins (N = 15) participated in a study of psychosexual development. All participants were > or = 18 years of age (mean age, 25 years; range, 18-40). Comparisons were also made between the CAH women with the salt-wasting (SW) form of the disorder and those with simple virilization (SV). A psychosexual assessment protocol examined six variables: (1) sex assignment at birth (probands only); (2) recalled sex-typed behavior during childhood; (3) gender identity and gender role identification in adulthood; (4) relationship status; (5) sexual orientation in fantasy; and (6) sexual orientation in behavior. Salt-wasting status and sex assignment at birth were also ascertained for the CAH women who either refused to participate in the study (N = 10) or could not be traced (N = 13). Compared to the controls, the women with CAH recalled more cross-gender role behavior and less comfort with their sense of "femininity" during childhood. The two groups did not differ in degree of gender dysphoria in adulthood, although the probands showed more cross-gender role identification. Three of the nonparticipant probands were living, as adults, in the male social role (2 reared from birth as boys and 1 who changed from the female to the male social role during adolescence). The CAH women and the controls did not differ in relationship status (married/cohabiting vs. single). The CAH women had lower rates of exclusive heterosexual fantasy and fewer sexual experiences with men than the controls; however, the CAH women did not have more sexual experiences with women than the controls. Comparisons between the SW and SV revealed several differences: the SW were less likely to be assigned to the female sex at birth, recalled more cross-gender role behavior during childhood, were less likely to be married or cohabiting, and had lower rates of sexual experiences with men. The results were discussed in relation to the effects of prenatal androgens on psychosexual differentiation.

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