Hair and Salivary Testosterone, Hair Cortisol, and Externalizing Behaviors in Adolescents

Andrew D. Grotzinger*, Frank D. Mann, Megan W. Patterson, Jennifer L. Tackett, Elliot M. Tucker-Drob, K. Paige Harden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Although testosterone is associated with aggression in the popular imagination, previous research on the links between testosterone and human aggression has been inconsistent. This inconsistency might be because testosterone’s effects on aggression depend on other moderators. In a large adolescent sample (N = 984, of whom 460 provided hair samples), we examined associations between aggression and salivary testosterone, hair testosterone, and hair cortisol. Callous-unemotional traits, parental monitoring, and peer environment were examined as potential moderators of hormone-behavior associations. Salivary testosterone was not associated with aggression. Hair testosterone significantly predicted increased aggression, particularly at low levels of hair cortisol (i.e., Testosterone × Cortisol interaction). This study is the first to examine the relationship between hair hormones and externalizing behaviors and adds to the growing literature that indicates that androgenic effects on human behavior are contingent on aspects of the broader endocrine environment—in particular, levels of cortisol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-699
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Testosterone × Cortisol
  • aggression
  • hair hormones
  • rule breaking
  • salivary testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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