Evidence and Implications From a Natural Experiment of Prenatal Androgen Effects on Gendered Behavior

Sheri A. Berenbaum, Adriene M. Beltz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Sex and gender are key to people’s lives, and are the focus of scientific and popular interest and controversy. Sex-related psychological characteristics reflect more than socialization; they are influenced by sex hormones present during sensitive periods of development, particularly androgens that are present prenatally. Studies of females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) show how prenatal androgens affect behavior across the life span; these hormones have large effects on interest and engagement in gendered activities, moderate effects on spatial abilities, and relatively small (or no) effects on gender identity, gender cognitions, and gendered peer involvement. In addition to showing the complexity of androgens’ effects on gendered behavior, studies of females with CAH provide an opportunity to test theories of gender development, gain insight into how nature and nurture work together, and examine mechanisms of development. The implications of this work have often been misunderstood, so we consider what it means—and does not mean—for biology to influence gender-related behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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