Prenatal androgens and autistic, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and disruptive behavior disorders traits

Objective:Androgen exposure is hypothesized to play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and disruptive behavior disorders/DBDs (oppositional defiant disorder/ODD and conduct disorder/CD). Theaim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate ASD, ADHD, and DBD (ODD and CD) traits in children and adolescents with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), a natural cause of prenatal androgen excess in females. Methods:Forty-five children and adolescents (27 girls, mean age 11.1±3; 18 boys, mean age 10.8±3.6)with CAH and their unaffected siblings (16 girls, mean age 11.4±3.9; 14 boys, mean age 12.6±4.2) were included in the study. Parents completed the Social Communication Questionnaire, to measure ASD symptoms; and the Turgay DSM-IV-Based Child and Adolescent Disruptive Behavioral Disorders Screening and Rating Scale to assess ADHD and DBD traits. Results: In this study, boys but not girls with CAH showed higher autistic traits. There was no significant difference between either girls or boys with CAH and their unaffected counterparts with respect to inattention or hyperactivity symptoms. Boys with CAH showed more ODD symptoms than the unaffected boys. There was a trend for boys to have more CD symptoms compared to unaffected boys. Conclusions:Our study does not support the hypothesis that prenatal androgen exposure is associated with ASD, ADHD or DBDs. Postnatal/circulating androgen levels, higher testosterone/cortisol ratio, lower basal cortisolor dysregulation in HPA axis might be related to higher autistic traits or increased DBDs symptoms found in boys with CAH. Further investigations with larger groups are needed to clarify these associations.

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