Neuroendocrine aspects of pediatric aggression: Can hormone measures be clinically useful?
Drew H Barzman1, Avni Patel2, Loretta Sonnier1, Jeffrey R Strawn3
1Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA; 2Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA; 3Department of Psychiatry, University of Cincinnati, College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH, USA
Abstract: Pediatric aggression is common in human societies, mainly presenting as impulsive aggression or predatory aggression. Numerous psychiatric disorders can contain aggression as a symptom, leading to difficulties in diagnosis and treatment. This review focuses on the biological systems that affect pediatric aggression. We review the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal (HPG) axis, and the mechanisms by which these axes influence the body and mind of aggressive children and adolescents. Although this review focuses on the HPA and HPG axes, it is important to note that other biological systems have relationships with these two axes. Based on the results of the studies reviewed, elevated cortisol concentrations were associated with impulsive aggression, whereas, low levels of cortisol were associated with callous-unemotional traits similar to predatory aggression. Higher levels of dehydroepiandrosterone were correlated with higher levels of aggression as were higher levels of testosterone. However, there have been discrepancies in the results between various studies, indicating the need for more research on hormonal levels and pediatric aggression. In the future, hormonal levels may be useful in determining what treatments will work best for certain pediatric patients.
Keywords: youth, cortisol, adrenocorticotropin-releasing hormone, corticotropin-releasing hormone, HPA axis, HPG axis
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