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An Endocrine Basis for Tomboy Identity: the second-to-fourth digit ratio (2D:4D) in "tomboys"

Lookup NU author(s): Beth Atkinson, Dr Tom SmuldersORCiD, Dr Joel Wallenberg



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper investigates the relationship between organizational effects of pre-natal testosterone and the use of “tomboy” as a descriptor for young women. We show in a sample of 44 women that a person’s right hand 2D:4D ratio is a significant predictor of whether they will be labeled as a “tomboy”, with a decrease in 2D:4D ratio corresponding to an increase in the probability of being called “tomboy”. Taking the right hand 2D:4D ratio as a proxy for the abundance of testosterone in the early life hormonal milieu, we propose that organizing effects of higher pre-natal T lead to increased masculine-typical behavior in childhood, which increases the likelihood some women will be referred to as tomboys. We suggest that the increase in masculine-typical behaviors is a result of how the organizing effects of T on the brain interact with children’s social modeling of male-coded and female-coded behaviors.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Atkinson BM, Smulders TV, Wallenberg JC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Psychoneuroendocrinology

Year: 2017

Volume: 79

Pages: 9-12

Print publication date: 01/05/2017

Online publication date: 01/02/2017

Acceptance date: 27/01/2017

Date deposited: 07/03/2017

ISSN (print): 0306-4530

ISSN (electronic): 1873-3360

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.01.032


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