The Development of Masculine-Typical Function in DES Daughters

Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and the development of sexually dimorphic cognitive abilities and cerebral lateralization

1984 Study Abstract

Investigated the possibility that the perinatal hormonal environment is related to the development of cognitive sex differences in humans by comparing 25 women who had been exposed prenatally to DES, a synthetic estrogen, to their unexposed sisters.

All Ss completed word fluency and spatial relations tests, the Wonderlic Personnel Test, and a dichotic listening task.

  • The DES-exposed Ss showed a more masculine pattern of lateralization (i.e., a stronger right-ear advantage) than did their sisters on a verbal dichotic task.
  • However, no differences were observed between exposed and unexposed Ss in verbal or visuospatial ability.

Although interpretation of these data must be cautious, they provide some support for a relationship between high prenatal estrogen levels and the development of masculine-typical function in humans. Implications for previous studies of biological contributions to cognitive sex differences and possible mechanisms for estrogenic effects on the development of lateralization are discussed.

Sources

  • Prenatal exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES) and the development of sexually dimorphic cognitive abilities and cerebral lateralization, American Psychological Association, Developmental Psychology, doi=10.1037%2F0012-1649.20.1.81, Jan 1984.
  • Featured image Maarten van den Heuvel.
DES DIETHYLSTILBESTROL RESOURCES

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