primate parenting, attachment

parental investment and reproductive fitness

Females have the largest investment in parenting; in many species males contribute little more than sperm. Those with higher MPI, e.g. baboons, humans, tend to be quite successful relative to others.

reproductive rates of humans due to

diet, increased MPI, decreased nursing

Related factors in include increasing premature birth of large-brained neonate, loss of hair leading to less maternal mobility and the development of language and culture to support tools and agriculture etc.

factors in maternal care

early maternal experience

See Bard (1995) on "intuitive" parenting and the importance of "hands on" experience for future successful mothers.

number of offspring

First experiences may improve quality of later born care.

age and health of mother

Remember old Flo in the Goodall video.

support of others

This would include MPI and assistance of other females in the group. Obviously this would be very species specific.


primary attachment to mother

In non-human primates "attachment" means attachment! In most primates, the infant can cling at birth to mom's hair. Chimps need support for a month or two, and human neonates are too weak and have little to grasp onto, hence require much more active care from mother.
Separation elicits distress cries and then depression with potential long term effects, with various physiological consequences, e.g. increase in heartrate, anxiety response.

other attachments possible

peers, other caretakers, etc.

Even in NHPs, atypical relationships may be formed. Recall the fostering of an infant orang by an adolescent male in the Galdikas video. These examples indicate that mothering is not an instinct reflex but a combination of biology and personal experiences and situations.

effects on other behaviors (See Figure 1 below)


socialization and learning

cognitive ability as adult

sexual/social relationships as adult

species differences?

humans (some variation in primary caretakers)

Harlow's monkeys

Therapists treating children separated from their parents during wartime noted that after initial signs of distress, the children became depressed with various symptoms of apathy, failure to grow, etc. (See John Bowlby's 1969 Attachment and Loss.) Harlow, in his well-known "mother love" studies looked into attachment and its long term effects on rhesus monkeys. Normal monkeys show the patterns below at all stages of life. Monkeys deprived of normal mothering showed serious deficits as fearful, depressed juveniles and inadequate adults.

Figure 1. Stage of life and attachment consequences




"creature comfort" and security

security in exploration and learning

>>sexual capabilities


capable mothering (females)

>>cognitive abilities

Are other NHPs similar?

Are other NHPs similar?

I imagine other NHPs would show similar depressive effects of separation from mothering.