-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
THURSDAY, Jan. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Infant boys exposed to
high levels of the male hormone testosterone before birth have
double the risk for language delay as females, according to a new
"An estimated 12 percent of toddlers experience significant delays in their language development," said study lead author Professor Andrew Whitehouse at the University of Western Australia. "While language development varies between individuals, males tend to develop later and at a slower rate than females."
The study appears Jan. 26 in the
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
The Australian researchers noted that male fetuses have 10 times
the levels of testosterone than females, which could explain the
greater likelihood of language delays.
The study used the umbilical cord blood of 767 newborns to
measure how much testosterone the infants were exposed to during a
critical phase of brain development. The children's language
ability was then assessed by the time they were 1, 2 and 3 years
The researchers found that male infants with high testosterone
levels were two to three times more likely to have a language delay
than females. In contrast, girls exposed to high testosterone
levels had a lower risk for the developmental problem.
"Language delay is one of the most common reasons children are taken to a pediatrician," Whitehouse said in a journal news release. "Now these findings can help us to understand the biological mechanisms that may underpin language delay, as well as language development more generally."
While the study found an association between testosterone levels
and language delays, it did not prove a cause and effect.
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