How Hormones Affect Sexual Development and Behavior

Post your response to the following: Describe how hormones masculinize or feminize sexual development and behavior.

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I found it fascinating how we are all, by default, physiologically females at conception even if we have a Y chromosome (Pinel, 2007). I also found it odd how someone could be genetically male but physiologically female, or vice versa. I had always assumed, as I am sure most of us have, that our genetics determined our sex indefinitely. Anyway on to the DQ…

So at six weeks of development, we all carry the precursors to become physiologically male or female. In fact, by default, we would become female even if we were genetically male. However, at this stage, the Y chromosome starts to express itself through the hormone H-Y antigen. It is this hormone that starts the development of the testes in males. Surprisingly, if H-Y antigen is not present, then the fetus by default develops female internal sex organs. Once the testes have moved into position they begin to secrete testosterone and Mullerian-inhibiting substance. The testosterone acts to start development of the male duct system, while concurrently the Mullerian-inhibiting substance stops the development of the female duct system. Lastly, gender-related behavior is largely a result of sex hormones. At specific times during prenatal development, certain hormones have been shown to affect masculine or feminine behavior after birth. In particular, antigens most affect the process by which the brain develops along masculine or feminine lines.

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Pinel, J. P. J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

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