Do prepubertal hormones, 2D:4D index and psychosocial context jointly explain 11-year-old preadolescents' involvement in bullying?

Biol Psychol. 2022 Jul:172:108379. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2022.108379. Epub 2022 Jun 8.


Background: Bullying is a type of aggressive behavior that occurs repeatedly and intentionally in school environments and where there is a power imbalance. The main objective of this study was to analyze the association that hormones and the psychosocial context jointly have with bullying behavior.

Method: Participants were 302 11-year-old preadolescents from the Gipuzkoan cohort of the INMA Project. Bullying was assessed using the Olweus Bully/victim Questionnaire. Prenatal sexual hormones were assessed by calculating 2D:4D ratio and in order to measure prepubertal testosterone and cortisol levels saliva samples were collected within a week of each other. Additionally, various psychosocial factors were evaluated: executive function, family context, school environment and social context. To analyze our complex hypothesis, six metamodels were tested using structural equation modeling.

Results: In relation to victims, results showed that victimization was related to worse school environment' perception in boys, and higher stress and conflict in the family in girls. In the case of their involvement in bullying as a bully, lower salivary cortisol levels, worse school environment' perception and lower peers and social support was related to being more frequently involved as a bully in boys, while having more family stress and conflict was related with being a bully in girls.

Conclusions: This approach makes it possible not only to explore the different biological and psychosocial factors affect bullying behavior, but also to explore associations between the predictor variables.

Keywords: Bullying; Cortisol; Digit ratio (2D:4D); Prepubertal; Psychosocial; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Bullying* / psychology
  • Child
  • Crime Victims* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Male
  • Peer Group


  • Hydrocortisone