Adolescent Personality Moderates the Testosterone-Externalizing Association
Reardon, Kathleen Wade
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In considering moderating factors of the complex association between testosterone, a steroid hormone, and externalizing behavior, previous research has mainly focused on environmental influences, including interpersonal relationships. I tested the hypothesis that self-regulatory personality, an individual-level variable that is relevant for other hormone-behavior associations, moderates the testosterone-externalizing behavior association in adolescence. I examined evidence for this moderation across age and subfactors of externalizing behavior (aggression and rule-breaking). Parents reported on their child’s personality and psychopathology for a sample of 106 adolescents (56 % female) aged 13-18 (M = 16.01 years, SD = 1.29 years). Adolescent testosterone levels were measured via passive drool samples. As hypothesized, both trait Agreeableness and Conscientiousness moderated the testosterone-externalizing problem relationships. Specifically, high testosterone predicted higher levels of Externalizing Behaviors, but only for adolescents low in Agreeableness and Conscientiousness. In addition, self-regulatory personality acted as both a risk and a resiliency factor, with high levels of Conscientiousness—in combination with high testosterone—predicting lower than average levels of rule-breaking. These findings are similar to previously reported results regarding interpersonal relationships, which raises the question of how environmental and endogenous factors might jointly interact with high testosterone. Additionally, this work highlights the relevance of including personality moderators in future research on hormone-behavior associations.