OBJECTIVES: Male vulnerability in health and growth outcomes has often been reported in very low birth weight (VLBW) preterm neonates. On the basis of gender-difference theories, possible associations were explored between the levels of postnatal salivary testosterone/cortisol and the outcomes of neonatal health/growth. METHODS: This study used an exploratory and comparative research design. One-hundred-one mother-VLBW preterm neonate pairs were recruited from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of a tertiary medical center in the Southeastern, US. Demographic information, health and growth variables of neonates, and pregnancy and labor variables of mothers were obtained from the medical record reviews and interviews of mothers. Saliva samples from each pair were collected between 9 and 60 days of age. The levels of testosterone and cortisol were determined by using an enzyme immunoassay methodology. RESULTS: Linear regression analysis showed that neonatal health problems were positively associated with the levels of postnatal salivary testosterone and cortisol, while growth delays were positively associated with the levels of postnatal salivary testosterone after adjusting for the characteristics of neonates and mothers and day of saliva sampling. The salivary levels of testosterone and cortisol were higher in neonates than in mothers. A positive correlation between the levels of testosterone and cortisol was found in neonates and in mothers. CONCLUSIONS: The level of postnatal salivary testosterone is a more reliable marker in assessing neonatal health and growth outcomes compared to salivary cortisol. Further research on both testosterone and cortisol measurements at various stages during the neonatal period may elucidate further these associations.