Gender role across development in adult women with congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency

Dominique N. Long, Amy B. Wisniewski, Claude J. Migeon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


This study evaluated the degree of femininity and masculinity at different developmental stages in a group of adult women, some of whom were exposed to elevated prenatal adrenal androgens as a result of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to 21 hydroxylase (21OH) deficiency. Women who had presented to the Johns Hopkins Hospital Pediatric Endocrine Clinic for treatment of CAH due to 21-OH deficiency were included. The control group consisted of sisters of CAH participants and women referred for evaluation of polycystic ovary syndrome. Study participants were given a questionnaire asking them to indicate their degree of masculinity and femininity during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. In addition, participants were asked questions related to, their play behavior during childhood, including playmate preferences, toy preferences, and admiration of male or female characters during fantasy play. Across participant groups, self-reported femininity decreased in a dose response manner, according to prenatal androgen exposure. For all groups, femininity increased through developmental stages. Women with saltlosing CAH remained less feminine than controls into adulthood. Conversely, self-reported masculinity increased in a dose-response manner, according to prenatal androgen exposure, across participant groups., Women with CAH showed a decrease in masculinity across developmental stages, such that by adulthood, there were no significant differences in masculinity between controls and the women with CAH. Women with salt-losing CAH were more likely to recall preferences for boy playmates, male-typical toys, and admiration for male characters during childhood than other study participants. Our data support the effect of both prenatal androgen exposure and socialization on gender role behavior in adult women with CAH due to 21-OH deficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1367-1373
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Female pseudohermaphroditism
  • Gender role
  • Intersex
  • Prenatal androgens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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