Reconsidering the role of sex hormones in psychopathy development: estrogen and psychopathy among young offenders

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University of Alabama Libraries

Despite a common conception that testosterone is the sex hormone most associated with aggression and dominance, research has supported positive relationships between estrogen and each of: lacking empathy, sensation seeking, aggressive behavior, and low stress reactivity; many traits that are present in the syndrome of psychopathy. This study examined how estradiol, cortisol, and testosterone interact to inform psychopathic traits by measuring baseline and reactive hormone levels among 84 young offenders (M age =15.74) in a Southeastern juvenile detention center. The primary findings of this study were relationships between interacting HPA and HPG hormones with primary and secondary psychopathic traits; interpersonal traits related to cortisol and testosterone reactivity and lifestyle traits related to cortisol reactivity and baseline estradiol. An especially interesting finding was high levels of all three hormones in relation to high lifestyle trait scores. Findings also emerged for exploratory analyses, including sex and age interactions with baseline and reactive estradiol related to affective and lifestyle traits and hormonal interactions among males-only relating psychopathy total score and interpersonal traits to interactions between estradiol and testosterone reactivity, as well as affective traits related to baseline cortisol and testosterone.

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Clinical psychology