Puberty hormones and adolescent health and wellbeing
This is a project to understand how longitudinal changes in puberty hormones, testosterone and oestradiol, affect education, sleep, social connectedness, depression, anxiety and self harm, risk taking behaviours and cardiovascular health in adolescents.
Adolescence is characterized by marked psychosocial, behavioural and biological changes. This is a critical life transition during which pathways to health and well-being in adulthood are established. While there is a substantive body of research establishing the role of psycho-social and environmental influences on this transition, there has been no objective research examining the role of puberty hormones and tempo of puberty on critical aspects of adolescence such as learning, risk-taking, and mental health. In this longitudinal study we will document, for the first time, changes in testosterone and oestradiol in parallel with the documentation of classic and well described social, behavioral, emotional and physical changes in adolescence. In this study we are particularly interested in the tempo of puberty, defined as the time an individual takes to go from the initial elevation of testosterone (males) and oestradiol (females) to gonadal hormone levels which are in the adult range. The hypothesis is that the tempo and time of onset of hormone change contribute to the observed differences in study variables - social/emotional competence, education, sleep (universal behaviours); unintentional injury, drug and alcohol, sexual activity, disruptive behaviour (risk behaviours); depression, anxiety, self harm (mental health); and physical health status (cardiovascular risk) in adolescents. The aim is to describe the changes over time in both puberty hormones and the study variables. The objectives are to measure changes in hormones throughout puberty and to determine the relationships of puberty tempo and onset to study variables. Testosterone and oestradiol will be measured in blood annually and in urine quarterly. Other data will be collected by on-line questionnaires, including the Youth Self Report (student) and Child Behaviour CheckList (parent), and anthropometry. Geo-coding will provide environmental data. The main independent continuous variables for analysis will be age at onset of puberty and tempo of puberty. The study results are likely to alter forever how puberty is understood. Knowledge obtained will allow the better direction of interventions at a time when developmental trajectories remain plastic and capable of alteration.
This is a potential research area for PhD students through the Academic Department of Adolescent Medicine either in an urban community adolescent cohort or in an adolescent cohort with a specific disease process or diagnosis. This project has already created opportunities for Honour's students and these opportunities remain.
The research location is The Academic Department of Adolescent Medicine, The Children's Hospital at Westmead. This study commenced at the School of Rural Health in Dubbo.
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The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1264
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