Hormones that develop during puberty are not responsible for adolescent’s change in social behavior, study says.
Puberty and adolescence are happening at the same time. So if you want to know if one causes the other, one of the elements must be moved. We have no way of doing that in a human, but we have found a way to do it using Siberian hamsters,” said lead author Mattew Paul, University at Buffalo.
Although puberty and adolescence are frequently used as synonyms, they are not. Puberty is a subset of adolescence. Puberty and adolescence are defined as:
- Puberty: This is the phase when an individual reaches sexual maturity stage. Due to the development of reproductive axis, the individual becomes capable of reproduction.
- Adolescence: This phase encompasses puberty along with social, behavioral, cognitive, and emotional changes in the individual.
The study published in the journal Current Biology was performed on seasonal breeding species, like Siberian hamsters. It was easier to control the timing of puberty in these species. Serbian hamsters go through puberty in two ways, depending on their breeding season.
Long day hamsters
- Born at the beginning of breeding season.
- Go through puberty quickly in order to breed in that year.
Short day hamsters
- Born late in the breeding season.
- Delay puberty to avoid giving birth in the middle of winter.
Scientists controlled the amount of light received by hamsters in the lab. This delayed the onset of puberty in one group. If pubertal hormones were responsible for the behavioral changes, the two groups would have the transition at two different periods. However, this wasn’t the case. The behavioral changes in both groups, like play-fighting and social dominance, occurred at the same time.
“These findings are also important for adolescent mental health — understanding the underlying mechanisms responsible for adolescent development will provide insight into why so many mental health disorders arise during this time in life,” concluded Paul.