How Primate Mothers and Infants Communicate: Characterizing Interaction in Mother–Infant Studies

  • Maria BoteroEmail author
Part of the Interdisciplinary Evolution Research book series (IDER, volume 1)


All methodologies used to characterize mother–infant interaction in non-human primates include mother, infant, and other social factors. The chief difference is their understanding of how this interaction takes place. Using chimpanzees as a model, I will compare the different methodologies used to describe mother–infant interaction and show how implicit notions of communication and social interaction shape descriptions of this kind of interaction. I will examine the limitations and advantages of different approaches used in mother–infant studies, and I will sketch an alternative approach to studying mother–infant interaction in non-human primates that adopts Bruner’s developmental studies on human infant communication.


Mother-infant interaction Methods Primate development Chimpanzees 


  1. Altmann J (1974) Observational study of behaviour: sampling methods. Behaviour 49:227–267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altmann J (1980) Baboon mothers and infants. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker KC (1996) Chimpanzees in single cages and small social groups: effects of housing on behavior. Contemp Top Lab Anim Sci 35:71–74Google Scholar
  4. Bardi M, Huffman M (2002) Effects of maternal style on infant behavior in Japanese macaques (macaca fuscata). Dev Psychobiol Rev 41:364–372Google Scholar
  5. Beck B (2010) Chimpanzee orphans: sanctuaries, reintroduction and cognition. In: Lonsdorf E, Ross SR, Matsuzawa T, Goodall J (eds) The mind of the chimpanzee: ecological and experimental perspectives. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  6. Bloomsmith M, Baker K, Ross S, Lambeth S (2005) Early rearing conditions and captive chimpanzee behavior: some surprising findings. In: Sackett G, Ruppenthal G (eds) Nursery rearing of nonhuman primates in the 21st century. Kluver, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Bloomsmith MA, Kuhar C, Baker K, Lambeth S, Brent L, Ross SR, Fritz J (2003) Primiparous chimpanzee mothers: behavior and success in a short-term assessment of infant rearing. Appl Anim Behav Sci 84:235–250Google Scholar
  8. Boesch C, Boesch-Achermann H (2000) The chimpanzees of the Taï forest: behavioural ecology and evolution. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Boesch C, Bolé C, Eckhardt N, Boesch H (2010) Altruism in forest chimpanzees: the case of adoption. PLoS ONE 5(1):e8901Google Scholar
  10. Botero M (2012) Reconstructing with more situated social interactions. Emot Rev 4:246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Botero M, MacDonal S, Miller R (2013) Anxiety-related behavior of orphan chimpanzees (pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Primates 54:21–26PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bowlby J (1958) The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. Int J Psychoanal 39:350–373PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Brent L, Lee DR, Eichberg JW (1991) Evaluation of chimpanzee enrichment enclosure. J Med Primatol 20:29–34PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Bruner JS (1975) The ontogenesis of speech acts. J Child Lang 2:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bruner J (1990) Acts of meaning. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  16. Carter J (2003) Orphan chimpanzees in West Africa: experiences and prospects for viability in chimpanzee rehabilitation. In: Kormos C, Boesch C, Bakarr MI, Butynski T (eds) West African chimpanzees: status survey and conservation action plan. Primate Specialist GroupGoogle Scholar
  17. Cheney D, Seyfarth R (1990) How monkeys see the world. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  18. Cheney DL, Seyfarth RM (2007) Baboon metaphysics: the evolution of a social mind. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Clarke S, Juno C, Maple T (1982) Behavioral effects of a change in the physical environment: a pilot study of captive chimpanzees. Zoo Biol 1:371–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Davidson D (1982) Rational animals. Dialectica 36:317–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. De Lathowres M, Eslacker LV (2004) Comparing maternal styles in bonobos (pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (pan troglodytes). Am J Primatol 64:411–423Google Scholar
  22. Ellis AW, Beattie G (1986) The psychology of language and communication. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  23. Fairbanks L (1993) What is a good mother? Adaptive variation in maternal behavior of primates. Curr Dir Psychol Sci 2:179–183Google Scholar
  24. Fairbanks L (1996) Individual differences in maternal style. Adv Study Behav 25:579–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ferrari PF, Fogassi L (2012) The mirror neuron system in monkeys and its implications for social cognitive functions. In: De Waal FB, Ferrari PF (eds) The primate mind: built to connect with other minds. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  26. Fleming A, Kraemer G, Gonzalez A, Lovic V, Rees S, Melo A (2002) Mothering begets mothering: the transmission of behavior and its neurobiology across generations. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 73:61–75Google Scholar
  27. Grice P (1989) Studies in the way of words. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  28. Harlow HF, Suomi SJ (1971) Social recovery by isolation-reared monkeys. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 68(7):1534–1538PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Harlow HF, Zimmermann RR (1959) Affectional responses in the infant monkey. Science 130:421–432PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hinde R (1983) Description of social behavior. In: Primate social relationships, an integrated approach. Blackwell Scientific Publications, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  31. Humle T, Colin C, Laurans M, Raballand E (2011) Group release of sanctuary chimpanzees (pan troglodytes) in the Haut Niger National Park, Guinea, West Africa: ranging patterns and lessons so far. Int J Primatol 32:456–473CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. King B, Fox R (2002) On patterned interactions and culture in great apes. In: Anthropology beyond culture. Oxford, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. King N, Mellen J (1994) The effects of early experience on adult copulatory behavior in zoo-born chimpanzees (pan troglodytes). Zoo Biol 13:51–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lyn H, Russell JL, Hopkins WD (2010) The impact of environment on the comprehension of declarative communication in apes. Psychol Sci 21:360–365PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Maestripieri D (1993) Maternal anxiety in rhesus macaques (macaca mulatta). Measurement of anxiety and identification of anxiety-eliciting situations. Ethol [Zeitschrift Fur Tierpsychologie] 95:19–31Google Scholar
  36. Maestripieri D (1998) Parenting styles of abusive mothers in group-living rhesus macaques. Anim Behav 55:1–11Google Scholar
  37. Maestripieri D (1999) The biology of human parenting: insights from nonhuman primates. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 23:411–422Google Scholar
  38. Maestripieri D, McCormack K, Lindell S, Highley JD, Sanchez M (2006) Influence on parenting style on the offspring's behavior and CSF monoamine metabolite levels in crossfostered and noncrossfostered female rhesus macaques. Behav Brain Res 175:90–95Google Scholar
  39. Matsuzawa T (2006) Sociocognitive development in chimpanzees: a synthesis of laboratory work and fieldwork. In: Matsuzawa T, Tomonaga M, Tanaka M (eds) Cognitive development in chimpanzees. Springer, TokyoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Meltzoff AN, Moore MK (1977) Imitation of facial and manual gestures by human neonates. Science 198:75–78PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Menzel E (1964) Patterns of responsiveness in chimpanzees reared through infancy under conditions of environmental restriction. Psychol Forsch 27:337–365PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Menzel CR, Menzel EW Jr (2012) Enquiries concerning chimpanzee understanding. In: De Waal F, Francesco-Ferrari P (eds) The primate mind. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  43. Okamoto-Barth S, Tanaka M, Kawai N, Tomonaga M (2007) Looking compensates for the distance between mother and infant chimpanzee. Dev Sci 10:172–182PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schino G, D'Amato F, Troisi A (1995) Mother-Infant relationship in Japanese macaques: sources of interindividual variation. Anim Behav 49:151–158Google Scholar
  45. Shanker S, Taylor T (2001) The house that Bruner built. In: Language, culture, self: the philosophical psychology of Jerome Bruner. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  46. Shannon C, Weaver W (1949/1978) The mathematical theory of communication. University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, UrbanaGoogle Scholar
  47. Slocombe KE, Zuberbühler K (2005) Agonistic screams in wild chimpanzees vary as a function of social role. J Comp Psychol 119:67–77PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Suomi S, Goldberg S, Muir R, Kerr J (1995) Influence of attachment theory on ethological studies of biobehavioral development in nonhuman primates. In: Muir G, Kerr J (eds) Attachment theory: social, developmental and clinical perspectives. Analytic, HillsdaleGoogle Scholar
  49. Takeshita H, Myowa-Yamakoshi M, Hirata S (2006) A new comparative perspective in prenatal motor behaviours: preliminary research with four dimensional ultrasonography. In: Matsuzawa T, Tomonaga M, Tanaka M (eds) Cognitive development in chimpanzees. Springer, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  50. Tomonaga M, Matsuzawa M, Tomonaga M, Tanaka M (2006) Development of chimpanzee social cognition in the first 2 years of life. In: Cognitive development in chimpanzees. Springer, TokyoGoogle Scholar
  51. van Ijzendoorn MH, Bard KA, Bakermans-Kranenburg MJ, Ivan K (2009) Enhancement of attachment and cognitive development of young nursery-reared chimpanzees in responsive versus standard care. Dev Psychobiol 51:173–185PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Vicedo M (2013) The nature and nurture of love: from imprinting to attachment in cold war America. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Whiten A et al (1999) Cultures in chimpanzees. Nature 399:682–685PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wobber T, Hare B (2011) Psychological health of orphan bonobos and chimpanzees in African sanctuaries. PLoS One 6(6):e17147PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yerkes R (1943) Chimpanzees: a laboratory colony. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and PhilosophySam Houston State UniversityHuntsvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations