Developmental processes in early adolescence: relationships between adolescent adjustment problems and chronologic age, pubertal stage, and puberty-related serum hormone levels

J Pediatr. 1987 Mar;110(3):473-80. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(87)80521-8.


Relations between adolescent psychosocial adjustment problems and markers of biologic development, including chronologic age, pubertal status, and serum hormone levels, were examined in 56 normal boys and 52 normal girls, ages 9 to 14 years. Adolescent psychosocial adjustment was assessed by adolescent self-ratings of various aspects of self-image (Offer Self-Image Questionnaire for Adolescents) and parent ratings of adolescent behavior problems (Child Behavior Checklist). The pubertal status measure used in the analyses was Tanner genital stage for boys and Tanner breast stage for girls. The hormone measures, determined by radioimmunoassay, were serum levels of gonadotropins (luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone), sex steroids (testosterone and estradiol), and adrenal androgens (dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate, and androstenedione). The testosterone/estradiol ratio also was computed. Overall, findings were stronger, more consistent, and more generalized for boys than for girls. For boys, adjustment problems typically were associated with a multivariate profile that may be characteristic for later maturers: relatively low sex steroid levels, or lower pubertal stage, and relatively high adrenal androgen (androstenedione) levels, frequently in conjunction with higher chronologic age. Univariate relations predominated for girls; that is, associated with adjustment problems for girls were relatively high levels of gonadotropins, relatively low levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and relatively high levels of androstenedione on their own or in conjunction with lower pubertal stage. Higher levels of androstenedione, a steroid particularly responsive to stress, were associated with adjustment problems in both boys and girls. This relation may reflect the stress of later maturation, which could result from environmental factors, such as adolescent self-comparisons with same-age peers, or endogenous effects of hormones.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood
  • Gonadotropins, Pituitary / blood
  • Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Puberty*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Social Adjustment*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Gonadotropins, Pituitary
  • Hormones