Gender development and sexuality in disorders of sex development

Horm Metab Res. 2015 May;47(5):361-6. doi: 10.1055/s-0035-1548792. Epub 2015 Apr 8.


Understanding psychological development in individuals with disorders of sex development (DSD) is important for optimizing their clinical care and for identifying paths to competence and health in all individuals. In this paper, we focus on psychological outcomes likely to be influenced by processes of physical sexual differentiation that may be atypical in DSD, particularly characteristics related to being male or female (those that show sex differences in the general population, gender identity, and sexuality). We review evidence suggesting that (a) early androgens facilitate several aspects of male-typed behavior, with large effects on activity interests, and moderate effects on some social and personal behaviors (including sexual orientation) and spatial ability; (b) gender dysphoria and gender change occur more frequently in individuals with DSD than in the general population, with rates varying in relation to syndrome, initial gender assignment, and medical treatment; and (c) sexual behavior may be affected by DSD through several paths related to the condition and treatment, including reduced fertility, physical problems associated with genital ambiguity, social stigmatization, and hormonal variations. We also consider limitations to current work and challenges to studying gender and sexuality in DSD. We conclude with suggestions for a research agenda and a proposed research framework.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Disorders of Sex Development / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexuality / physiology*
  • Social Behavior*