Concerns over anxiety and depressive symptoms in children with premature adrenarche (PA) have been recently raised. However, to date, most relevant studies are on a small number of girls. In this cross-sectional study, 82 pre-pubertal children (66 girls and 16 boys) diagnosed with PA, were compared to 63 control children regarding their psychological characteristics and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function, as assessed by salivary cortisol measurement. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were assessed by child self-report (Spence Children's Anxiety Scale (SCAS) and Depression self-rating scale for Children (DSRS)) and parent-report (Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL)) tests validated for the Greek population. Salivary cortisol levels were determined directly after awakening (approximately 7am) and evening (8pm) of the same day. Morning serum DHEAS levels were assessed in PA children. Girls with PA scored significantly higher on anxiety (p = .016) and depression (p =.039) scales than controls. No group differences were noted for parent reports and children's salivary cortisol concentrations. Boys with PA did not demonstrate significant differences in any of the aforementioned parameters. Our findings suggest that girls with PA may be at higher risk for reporting symptoms of anxiety and depression than their non-PA peers. HPA axis dysregulation in this population was not documented.
Keywords: DHEAS; Premature adrenarche; anxiety; children; depression; salivary cortisol.