Saturday, February 22, 2003

UB Reporter: Gender-related behavior
University at Buffalo Reporter
Study finds exposure to certain toxins can affect behavior
Contributing Editor

"Women's exposure to environmental contaminants that mimic the activity of human sex hormones during prenatal development can affect the masculinity and femininity of their offspring, UB researchers have found. However, the results seem to point to a shared influence of the parents' own gender-related behavior and exposure to the contaminants, which can act as "endocrine disrupters," according to David E. Sandberg, associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics, and lead author on the research. The study appeared Friday in the journal Epidemiology. It supports the findings of an October study done in the Netherlands, which was the first to show a relationship between exposure to hormonally active agents in the environment and children's gender-role behavior. The UB study reports on gender behavior of boys and girls born to male and female anglers and their spouses who eat contaminated sport fish from the Great Lakes. Their findings show that in boys, the more fish the mother consumed, the more typically masculine the boy's behavior. Girls with one or more older siblings also showed more masculine behavior. In an interesting twist, results showed that girls who were breastfed longer showed more typically feminine behavior." [The article goes onto conclude that the researchers don't believe contaminants in breast milk have an impact, that only prenatal development is disrupted, and also that how the children were nurtured appears to impact their gender-related behaviour: "We speculate that mothers who breastfed are likely to be more traditional in their gender-role behaviour than women who don't, and that their daughters' behaviours reflect this." - JC]

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