Foetal testosterone, social relationships, and restricted interests in children


Rebecca Knickmeyer, Autism Research Centre, Department of Experimental Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Rd, Cambridge CB2 2AH, UK; Tel: 01223 746030; Fax: 01223 746033; Email:


Background:  Sex-differences exist in some areas of human social behaviour. In animals, foetal testosterone (fT) plays a central role in organising the brain and in later social behaviour. fT has also been implicated in language development, eye-contact, and spatial ability in humans.

Methods:  Fifty-eight children (35 male and 23 female), whose fT was analysed in amniotic fluid, were followed up at age 4. Their mothers completed the Children's Communication Checklist, a questionnaire assessing language, quality of social relationships and restricted interests.

Results:  fT was negatively correlated to quality of social relationships, taking sex-differences into account. fT was also positively correlated with restricted interests in boys.

Conclusions:  These findings implicate fT in both social development and attentional focus. They may also have implications for understanding the sex ratio in autism.