Comparing Postnatal Development of Gonadal Hormones and Associated Social Behaviors in Rats, Mice, and Humans

Endocrinology. 2018 Jul 1;159(7):2596-2613. doi: 10.1210/en.2018-00220.


Postnatal development includes dramatic changes in gonadal hormones and the many social behaviors they help regulate, both in rodents and humans. Parental care-seeking is the most salient social interaction in neonates and infants, play and prosocial behaviors are commonly studied in juveniles, and the development of aggression and sexual behavior begins in peripubertal stages but continues through late adolescence into adulthood. Although parental behaviors are shown after reproductive success in adulthood, alloparenting behaviors are actually high in juveniles as well. These behaviors are sensitive to both early-life organizational effects of gonadal hormones and later-life activational regulation. However, changes in circulating gonadal hormones and the display of the previous behaviors over development differ between rats, mice, and humans. These endpoints are of interest to endocrinologist, toxicologists, and neuroscientists because of their relevance to mental health disorders and their vulnerability to effects of endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure. As such, the goal of this mini-review is to succinctly describe and relate the postnatal development of gonadal hormones and social behaviors to each other, over time, and across animal models. Ideally, this will help identify appropriate animal models and age ranges for continued study of both normative development and in contexts of environmental disruption.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gonadal Hormones / metabolism*
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Social Behavior*


  • Gonadal Hormones
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Progesterone