Testing the prenatal hormone hypothesis of tic-related disorders: gender identity and gender role behavior

Dev Psychopathol. Spring 2004;16(2):407-20. doi: 10.1017/s095457940404458x.


The hypothesis that prenatal masculinization of the brain increases risk of tic disorders in postnatal life was tested by measuring gender and gender role behavior in 89 children and adults with a clinical diagnosis of Tourette syndrome or obsessive compulsive disorder and 67 healthy, unaffected children and adults. Consistent with this hypothesis, a tic disorder in females was associated with more gender dysphoria, increased masculine play preferences, and a more typically "masculine" pattern of performance on two sex-typed spatial tasks. Males with tic disorders reported increased masculine play preferences, and the strength of these preferences was positively associated with the severity of tic symptoms. In addition, unlike their female counterparts, males with tic disorders showed a relative impairment in mental rotation ability. These behavioral profiles are consistent with those of children who have verifiable elevations in prenatal androgen levels. These findings therefore support the hypothesis that an altered androgen-dependent process of sexual differentiation during prenatal life may contribute to the development of tic-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Personality Assessment
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Differentiation / physiology*
  • Social Behavior
  • Tourette Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Tourette Syndrome / physiopathology*


  • Androgens