Acute Salivary Steroid Hormone Responses in Juvenile Boys and Girls to Non-physical Team Competition

Timothy S. McHale*, Peter B. Gray, Ka-chun Chan, David T. Zava, Wai-Chi Chee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Little psychoneuroendocrine research has focused on steroid hormone responses to non-physical competition in middle childhood. This study sought to observe testosterone, estradiol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione, and cortisol responses in children during a mixed-sex, team, academic competition.

Methods: Salivary steroid hormones were collected, along with measures of performance, Body Mass Index, and pubertal development in ethnically Chinese boys (n = 18) and girls (n = 27), aged 9–10 years, during a math competition (N = 45).

Results: Testosterone and estradiol levels were generally low and unmeasurable. Nearly every competitor experienced decreases in cortisol and cortisol/DHEA molar ratio. Pre- and post-match DHEA and androstenedione did not significantly change. Exploratory analyses revealed a positive correlation between DHEA change and team performance among non-active participants (i.e. did not attempt to answer a question). ANCOVAs revealed differences in percentage change in androstenedione between active (n = 20) and non-active participants (n = 25) and among winners (n = 7) and losers (n = 38), and positive associations with age. Percentage change in cortisol was significantly lower among losers compared to winners. Performance measures were positively correlated with DHEA change and percentage change in androstenedione.

Conclusions: Despite girls having higher pre-match androstenedione, both sexes exhibited similar patterned hormone responses. Only cortisol and cortisol/DHEA molar ratio decreased during the competition. However, DHEA, androstenedione, and cortisol match changes were partially related to psychosocial variables (e.g., performance, outcome, participation). These findings provide new insight into factors which may underpin steroid hormone responses during middle childhood non-athletic competition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-247
Number of pages25
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Issue number3
Early online date22 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2018

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physiology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Androstenedione
  • Competition
  • Cortisol
  • DHEA
  • Middle childhood
  • Testosterone


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