The development of sex differences in digital formula from infancy in the Fels Longitudinal Study

Matthew H McIntyre, Peter T Ellison, Daniel E Lieberman, Ellen Demerath, Bradford Towne


Relative finger lengths, especially the second-to-fourth finger length ratio, have been proposed as useful markers for prenatal testosterone action. This claim partly depends on an association of relative finger lengths in adults with related sex differences in children and infants. This paper reports the results of a study using serial radiographs to test for both sex differences in the fingers of infants and children and for a relationship between sex differences in the children and infant finger and adult finger length ratios. This is the first study using long-term serial data to evaluate the validity of finger length ratios as markers. We found not only that sex differences in finger length ratios arise prior to puberty, but that sex differences in the fingers of children are highly correlated with adult finger length ratios. Our results strongly encourage the further use of finger length ratios as markers of perinatal testosterone action.



    • Received December 28, 2004.
    • Accepted March 14, 2005.
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