Developmental and contextual considerations for adrenal and gonadal hormone functioning during adolescence: Implications for adolescent mental health

Dev Psychobiol. 2015 Sep;57(6):742-68. doi: 10.1002/dev.21214. Epub 2014 Apr 11.


Substantial research has implicated the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axes independently in adolescent mental health problems, though this literature remains largely inconclusive. Given the cross-talk between the HPA and HPG axes and their increased activation in adolescence, a dual-axis approach that examines both axes simultaneously is proposed to predict the emergence and persistence of adolescent mental health problems. After briefly orienting readers to HPA and HPG axis functioning, we review the literature examining associations between hormone levels and changes with behavior during adolescence. Then, we provide a review of the literature supporting examination of both axes simultaneously and present the limited research that has taken a dual-axis approach. We propose future directions including consideration of between-person and within-person approaches to address questions of correlated changes in HPA and HPG hormones. Potential moderators are considered to increase understanding of the nuanced hormone-behavior associations during key developmental transitions.

Keywords: HPA axis; HPA-HPG associations; HPG axis; adolescence; cortisol; dehydroepiandrosterone; development; family context; hormone-behavior associations; testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology*
  • Adolescent Development / physiology*
  • Gonadal Hormones / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / physiology*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Mental Health*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*


  • Gonadal Hormones
  • Hydrocortisone