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Age, Testosterone, and Behavior Among Female Prison Inmates

Dabbs, James M. Jr., PhD; Hargrove, Marian F. MS

Original Articles

Objective The objective of the study was to determine how testosterone levels, both alone and interacting with age, were associated with criminal behavior and institutional behavior among female prison inmates.

Method Subjects were 87 female inmates in a maximum security state prison. Criminal behavior was scored from court records. Institutional behavior was scored from prison records and interviews with staff members. Testosterone levels were scored from radioimmunoassay of saliva samples.

Results Product-moment correlations revealed first-order relationships among age, testosterone, criminal behavior, and institutional behavior. Structural Equation analysissuggested a causal model in which age leads to lower testosterone, which in turn leads to less violent crime and less aggressive dominance in prison.

Conclusion Testosterone is related to criminal violence and aggressive dominance in prison among women, as has been reported among men. Changes in these behaviors with age are in part explained by a decline in testosterone levels.

From the Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia.

Address reprint requests to: James M. Dabbs, Jr., Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303. Address e-mail to

Received for publication March 20, 1996; revision received July 23, 1996.

Copyright © 1997 by American Psychosomatic Society
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