Disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) and symptoms are more prevalent in males, yet they are on the rise in females and their impact is devastating for girls'mental and physical health and quality of life. The onset and rise in DBD in females typically manifests in adolescence, a developmental stage characterized by dramatic hormonal changes and concomitant pubertal maturation. Our working model emphasizes that this developmental co-occurrence is not a coincidence. The overarching goal of the proposed research is to examine if stress and sex hormones operate as biobehavioral pathways to DBD symptoms. The proposed project will examine the components of DBD, specifically focusing on callous/unemotional traits as an important dispositional vulnerability which reliably predicts DBD severity and persistence. Moreover, neurobiological evidence implicates stress and sex hormones in the expression of CU traits, with notable activity and modulation of the neurocircuitry which instantiates empathy and callousness. There is little research on DBD in female adolescents, and even less which investigates biobehavioral mechanisms underlying symptom expression. Moreover, much of the literature that has been conducted about pathways to DBD largely extrapolates from research with males;when females are examined, they typically express DBD symptoms and CU traits in the mild-moderate range of severity. The present investigation will have a significant impact on the field because it targets an under-studied population of females with a range of DBD symptoms and CU traits with a high range of severity. We have received permission to examine stress and sex hormones in Southern Oaks Girls School, a correctional facility that offers treatment for the most severe adolescent female offenders in the state of Wisconsin. Saliva will be noninvasively collected ten times across two days to capture the diurnal rhythm of cortisol, testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and estradiol. This collection strategy parallels a recent investigation in incarcerated male adolescents, thereby permitting exploratory investigation of sex similarities and sex differences in the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying CU trait expression and DBD symptom expression without incurring additional cost. The end- product of the research will be to obtain a battery of putative biomarkers which will be useful tools within the field's arsenal to understand DBD risk, expression, and prevention. Capturing multiple hormones which interact with each other is innovative, with the potential to result in a """"""""biosignature"""""""" of CU trait expression and DBD risk. This project will provide the foundation for a future program of research on biobehavioral mechanisms for DBD and CU traits, helping to bridge the gap between bench research and application to real-world issues facing adjudicated youth through interdisciplinary research. The investigative team is comprised new/early accomplished investigators and highly experienced mentors/consultants with decades of experience as interdisciplinary researchers.

Public Health Relevance

Advancing understanding of the psychobiological mechanisms underlying risk for severe disruptive behavior disorders (DBD) is critical in order to prevent and treat DBD. The present proposal targets a novel population of girls with a very high range of DBD symptoms and problems, constituting one of the first investigations into their putative biomarkers. The study will have a large impact on the field because it employs multiple stress and sex hormones, raising the potential to reveal a unique biosignature of DBD in female adolescents. Behavioral manifestations of callous/ unemotional traits are specifically targeted as being neurobiologically informative for instantiating DBD risk. The present proposal parallels a recent investigation with incarcerated male adolescents to permit the exploration of sex similarities and differences.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Biobehavioral Mechanisms of Emotion, Stress and Health Study Section (MESH)
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Garvey, Marjorie A
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Louisiana State University-University of New Orleans
Schools of Arts and Sciences
New Orleans
United States
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