Digit ratio, a proposed marker of the prenatal hormone environment, is not associated with prenatal sex steroids, anogenital distance, or gender-typed play behavior in preschool age children

Emily Barrett, Sally W. Thurston, Donald Harrington, Nicole R. Bush, Sheela Sathyanarayana, Ruby Nguyen, Alexis Zavez, Christina Wang, Shanna Swan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Prenatal hormones have been proposed as key factors impacting child development as well as long-term health and disease. Digit ratio (the ratio of the lengths of the second to fourth digits; 2D:4D) has been proposed as a sexually dimorphic, noninvasive marker of prenatal androgen exposure that can be reliably measured in children and adults. To date, few longitudinal pregnancy cohort studies have examined childhood digit ratio in relation to other relevant measures including prenatal hormones and androgen-sensitive outcomes. To augment the current literature on this topic, we measured right-hand digit ratio in 4-year-old children participating in The Infant Development and the Environment Study, a multicenter longitudinal cohort study that has been following mother-child dyads since the first trimester of pregnancy (n = 321). We assessed sex differences in digit ratio and fit multivariable linear regression models to examine digit ratio in relation to: (1) child sex; (2) maternal sex steroid hormone concentrations in early pregnancy; (3) newborn anogenital distance, another proposed measure of sensitivity to prenatal androgens; and (4) gender-typical play behavior as measured by the Preschool Activities Inventory (PSAI) at age 4. We observed no sex difference in digit ratio; the mean 2D:4D was 0.97 ± 0.05 mm in both sexes. Furthermore, digit ratio was not associated with maternal sex steroid concentrations in early pregnancy, anogenital distance in either sex, or PSAI scores in either sex in covariate-adjusted models. In conclusion, we observed no evidence that early childhood digit ratio was associated with child sex or hormone-sensitive measures in this cohort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • anogenital distance
  • Digit ratio
  • pregnancy
  • prenatal hormones
  • sex differences

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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