Girls with premature adrenarche (PA) are at risk for multiple problems related to exaggerated androgen synthesis. Whether PA carries a risk of psychopathology remains unknown. This study examined group differences in: (a) anthropometric and endocrine parameters, and (b) mood and behavior problems, in 6-8 year-old girls with PA (n = 40) compared to on-time adrenarche girls (n = 36). PA girls were taller (p ≤0.05) and heavier (p ≤0.01) than the on-time adrenarche girls but body mass index showed no difference. PA girls had significantly (p <0.05) higher adrenal androgen and testosterone concentrations but not cortisol or leptin. PA girls also had significantly more oppositional defiant disorder, and higher symptom counts reflecting anxiety, mood or disruptive behavior disorders. PA girls may be more vulnerable to psychopathology than on-time adrenarche girls. The challenge of future studies is to determine which PA girls are at risk for psychopathology and which are more resilient.
Keywords: behavior problems, anxiety, puberty, adrenarche, adrenal androgens, testosterone, leptin