Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Earlier, later puberty may trigger aggression in boys, researchers find

Date:
May 3, 2010
Source:
Penn State
Summary:
Puberty that arrives earlier or later in adolescent boys relative to their peers can trigger chemicals that are related to antisocial behavior, according to researchers, whose findings have key implications for parents with aggressive boys.

Puberty that arrives earlier or later in adolescent boys relative to their peers can trigger chemicals that are related to antisocial behavior, according to researchers, whose findings have key implications for parents with aggressive boys.

"Aggressive behavior can begin very early, even in pre-school, and might be related to poor impulse control, difficulties in the family or just overall general problem behavior," said Elizabeth J. Susman, the Jean Phillips Shibley professor of biobehavioral health, Penn State. "We wanted to find out if earlier or later timing of puberty in adolescents has any biological factors related to it."

Susman and her colleagues looked at how the timing of puberty affects cortisol, a stress hormone, and salivary alpha amylase, an enzyme in saliva used as indicator of stress. Their findings appear in the May issue of Psychoneuroendocrinology.

The researchers found that lower levels of the alpha amylase in boys who experienced earlier maturity and higher levels of cortisol in boys who experienced later maturity are related to antisocial behavior. They found no similar correlation in girls.

"This is the first study to show that the timing of puberty moderates biological risks of antisocial behavior," said Susman. "The implication that parents should be especially sensitive to picking up signs of earlier or later puberty in their children. "Parents and healthcare providers should be aware of how puberty can be stressful -- behaviorally and biologically -- on the kids."

Why the findings are statistically significant for boys and not girls remains unclear.

"At puberty, boys produce a lot of testosterone and testosterone is a stress hormone as well," added Susman. "It may be that compared to girls, boys just have more biological hormone changes that may lead to antisocial behavior."

The researchers used a child behavior checklist to test 135 boys and girls ages 8 to 13 for signs of antisocial behavior -- aggression, rule breaking, social and attention problems, defiance, and conduct disorder. Researchers also collected saliva samples before and after a stressful laboratory test, while pediatric nurses determined the stage of puberty for each child.

"We had the children tell a story and do a mental arithmetic test," said Susman. "To evoke a stress response, the children were told that judges would evaluate the test results with those of other children."

Statistical analyses of the children's cortisol and salivary enzyme levels, as well as the timing of puberty and symptoms of antisocial behavior, suggest that overall, antisocial boys are characterized by a later onset of puberty and higher levels of cortisol.

However, boys who reached puberty earlier and had lower levels of the salivary enzyme specifically showed greater problems related to rule breaking and conduct disorder. These boys were also more aggressive than those in the group that experienced puberty later.

"We have shown that the relationship between cortisol, salivary amylase, and antisocial behavior is linked to the timing of puberty," said Susman. "This is the first study to show how the timing of puberty moderates biological vulnerabilities in children."

Other researchers in the study include Douglas A. Granger, professor of biobehavioral health and human development and family studies; Keeva T. Blades, graduate student in biobehavioral health and Jodi A. Heaton, administrative assistant, all at Penn State; Lorah D. Dorn, professor of pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and Samantha Dockray, postdoctoral fellow, University College London. The National Institutes of Health supported this work.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Penn State. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Elizabeth J. Susman, Samantha Dockray, Douglas A. Granger, Keeva T. Blades, William Randazzo, Jodi A. Heaton, Lorah D. Dorn. Cortisol and alpha amylase reactivity and timing of puberty: Vulnerabilities for antisocial behaviour in young adolescents. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 2010; 35 (4): 557 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.09.004

Cite This Page:

Penn State. "Earlier, later puberty may trigger aggression in boys, researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 May 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503111750.htm>.
Penn State. (2010, May 3). Earlier, later puberty may trigger aggression in boys, researchers find. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503111750.htm
Penn State. "Earlier, later puberty may trigger aggression in boys, researchers find." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100503111750.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins