Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: The characteristics of adrenal hormone secretion change markedly during infancy. Disturbances in basal levels may precipitate psychological dysfunction and are associated with psychopathology in young people. Aims: To relate three aspects of behavioural endocrinology: developmental changes in cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the role of these hormones in the psychopathology of young people, and the action of these steroids in the brain. Method: A selective review from the human developmental, psychiatric and neurosciences literature. Results: There are developmentally mediated changes in brain sensitivity following excess exposure to cortisol. This may result in impairments of mental and behavioural function. DHEA and gonadal steroids may modulate the actions of cortisol. Conclusions: Steroid hormones contribute to shaping behavioural function during early development and act as risk factors for psychopathology.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Psychiatry

Publication Date





243 - 249