A new research study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, claims male infants exposed to higher than normal levels of testosterone may be at increased risk of language delays. Testosterone levels were recorded using umbilical cord blood.

Male toddlers develop more slowly than female toddlers, but about 12-percent of toddlers have significant language development delays. There are many reasons why developmental delays occur, one of which may be testosterone level in-utero.

Researchers tested the umbilical cord blood of more than 750 infants and then followed the infants for three years. Language development milestones were recorded at ages one, two and three. The study revealed that male children with a high level of testosterone in umbilical cord blood at birth were at least two times as likely to have a delay in language development. Females, however, were the exact opposite. Female infants with high levels of testosterone in umbilical cord blood were less likely to have a delay in language development. While prior studies found a connection between testosterone levels in amniotic fluid and language development, this was the first study to use umbilical cord blood.

The connection between testosterone levels, in both umbilical cord blood and amniotic fluid and delayed language development will need to be retested on a larger scale, but studies like this one place a finger on a potential cause for delay. According to one study author, “Language delay is one of the most common reasons children are taken to the [pediatrician]. Now, these findings can help us to understand the biological mechanisms that may underpin language delay, as well as language development more generally.”

Source: Andrew JO Whitehouse, Eugen Mattes, Murray T Maybery, Michael G Sawyer, Peter Jacoby, Jeffrey A Keelan, Martha Hickey. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 25 January 2012.