, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 381-391
Date: 19 Jul 2012

Are There Parental Socialization Effects on the Sex-Typed Behavior of Individuals with Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?

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Influences of prenatal androgen exposure on human sex-typical behavior have been established largely through studies of individuals with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). However, evidence that addresses the potential confounding influence of parental socialization is limited. Parental socialization and its relationship to sex-typical toy play and spatial ability were investigated in two samples involving 137 individuals with CAH and 107 healthy controls. Females with CAH showed more boy-typical toy play and better targeting performance than control females, but did not differ in mental rotations performance. Males with CAH showed worse mental rotations performance than control males, but did not differ in sex-typical toy play or targeting. Reported parental encouragement of girl-typical toy play correlated with girl-typical toy play in all four groups. Moreover, parents reported encouraging less girl-typical, and more boy-typical, toy play in females with CAH than in control females and this reported encouragement partially mediated the relationship between CAH status and sex-typical toy play. Other evidence suggests that the reported parental encouragement of sex-atypical toy play in girls with CAH may be a response to the girls’ preferences for boys’ toys. Nevertheless, this encouragement could further increase boy-typical behavior in girls with CAH. In contrast to the results for toy play, we found no differential parental socialization for spatial activities and little evidence linking parental socialization to spatial ability. Overall, evidence suggests that prenatal androgen exposure and parental socialization both contribute to sex-typical toy play.