Puberty consists of 2 components: gonadarche and adrenarche. Both components have distinct endocrine changes. Adrenarche has virtually been ignored with respect to examining hormone-behavior relations.
To provide descriptive biological and behavioral information on children with premature adrenarche (PA) and to examine differences in biological, psychological, and cognitive variables of children with PA and a healthy comparison group of children with on-time adrenarche.
Descriptive pilot study.
A consecutive sample of patients was recruited from pediatric endocrine clinics; comparison children were recruited from the community.
Children aged 6 to 9 years. Mean (±SD) age of children with PA (n=9) was 7.8 (±1.3) years; of children with on-time adrenarche (n=20), 8.0 (±1.2) years.
Methods and Measures
Serum and saliva samples were collected for measurement of hormone concentrations. Questionnaires, tests, and interviews were completed by children and parents.
Compared with the on-time group, the PA group had significantly higher concentrations of adrenal androgens, estradiol, thyrotropin, and cortisol. By parent report on the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children, 4 children (44%) met diagnostic criteria for psychological disorders (primarily anxiety disorders). The PA group also had more self-reported depression and parent-reported behavior problems and lower scores on various intelligence tests.
Although PA is considered a normal variation of pubertal development that warrants no medical intervention, PA presents with significant psychosocial problems. Children with PA may need psychological evaluation and follow-up. Future studies should confirm these findings with a larger sample and examine the long-term ramifications of this early presenting abnormality.