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Children with autism have a relatively shorter index finger (2D) compared with their ring finger (4D). It is often presumed that the 2D:4D ratio is associated with fetal testosterone levels and that high fetal testosterone levels could play a role in the aetiology of autism. It is unknown whether this effect is specific to autism. In this study, 2D:4D ratios of 144 males aged 6 to 14 years (mean age 9y 1mo [SD 1y 11mo]) with psychiatric disorders were compared with those of 96 males aged 6 to 13 years from the general population (mean age 9y 1mo [SD 1y 10mo]). Psychiatric disorders were divided into autism/Asperger syndrome (n=24), pervasive developmental disorder–not otherwise specified (PDD–NOS; n=26), attention-deficit–hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)/oppositional defiant disorder (ODD; n=68), and anxiety disorders (n=26). Males with autism/Asperger syndrome (p<0.05) and ADHD/ODD (p<0.05) had significantly lower (though not significantly; p=0.52) ratios than males with an anxiety disorder, and males with autism/Asperger syndrome had lower ratios than those in the comparison group. These results indicated that higher fetal testosterone levels may play a role, not only in the origin of autism, but also in the aetiology of PDD–NOS and of ADHD/ODD. Males with anxiety disorders might have been exposed to lower prenatal testosterone levels.
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