Androgens and child behavior: Color and toy preferences in children with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH).
Human males and females show average gender/sex differences for certain psychological phenomena. Multiple factors may contribute to these differences, including sex chromosomes, exposure to gonadal hormones, and socialization or learning. This study investigated potential hormonal and socialization/learning influences on gender/sex differences in childhood preferences for color, specifically pink and red vs. blues, and for toys. Children (aged 4 to 11 years) with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH, n = 43 girls and 37 boys), marked by elevated prenatal adrenal androgen exposure, and without CAH (n = 41 girls and 31 boys) were studied. Prior research indicates girls with CAH are masculinized for certain behaviors, such as toy choices, while boys with CAH generally do not differ from boys without CAH. In the current study, children indicated preferences for stereotyped hues of pink vs. blue as well as two control color pairs. They also indicated their preference between gender/sex-typed toys (doll vs. car) presented in black and white, in gender/sex-congruent colors (pink doll vs. blue car) and in gender/sex-incongruent colors (pink car vs. blue doll). Color findings: Control girls preferred stereotyped pink over blue more than boys or girls with CAH did; the latter two groups did not differ in their color preferences. No preference differences occurred for other color pairs. Toy findings: In black/white or gender/sex-congruent colors, boys preferred the car more than control girls or girls with CAH did, while girls with CAH preferred the car more than control girls did. In gender/sex-incongruent colors (pink car vs. blue doll), boys still preferred the car, while girls with CAH showed reduced and control girls showed increased preferences for the pink car compared to the car preferences in black/white. Results support learning theories of color preferences, perhaps also influenced by pre-existing toy preferences which may occur for other reasons, including early androgen exposure. Specifically, girls with CAH may have learned they do not enjoy stereotypical toys for girls, often colored pink, and pink coloring may subsequently diminish their preference for a car. Our results highlight the importance of gonadal hormones and learning in the development of childhood toy and color preferences.