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Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In this natural history of primate parenting, Smith compares parenting by nonhuman and human primates. In a narrative rich with vivid anecdotes derived from interviews with primatologists, from her own experience breeding cottontop tamarin monkeys for over thirty years, and from her clinical psychology practice, Smith describes the ways that primates care for their offspring, from infancy through young adulthood.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04380-0
    Subjects: Psychology, Zoology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[xii])
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-14)

    How can something sonaturalas parenting feel so unnatural? And shouldn’t we expect that a species of monkey whose brain weighs less than a third of an ounce would instinctively know how to parent? In my interactions with my clients in my practice as a clinical psychologist, I have become aware that many people feel that they should somehow automatically know how to parent—that maternal (or paternal) instincts lurk within us, waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. Then our first child arrives and we discover to our chagrin that knowing how to care for an infant is...

  4. CHAPTER 1 Learning to Parent
    (pp. 15-32)

    When I brought home 2-week-old cottontop tamarin triplets on a seemingly ordinary May day in 1972, it never occurred to me what an impact they would have on my life. At first, my goal was simply to ensure that they would survive. I kept them together, so they had continual contact with other cottontops, but I was clearly their “mother”; I was the one with the doll bottle of infant formula, the one who kept them clean, carried them, and made sure they were out of harm’s way. They grew up playing with one another, but attached to me. They...

  5. CHAPTER 2 The Primate Recipe for Mothering
    (pp. 33-68)

    One mother is not the same as another. Mothers take center stage in this chapter for two reasons: first, because in most nonhuman primate species and in virtually all human societies, mothers are the primary caregivers of infants, and second, because we simply know more about primate mothers than fathers.

    Whyisone mother unlike another? Nature and nurture both contribute to who we are and how we behave, whether we are early twenty-first-century humans, chimpanzees, or cottontop tamarins. The most interesting questions concernhownature (biological factors) and nurture (psychosocial and cultural factors) affect what kind of mothers we...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The Diversity of Primate Fathering
    (pp. 69-108)

    Although it is fairly simple to describe how primate mothers care for their infants, there are as many different recipes for primate fatherhood as there are for chocolate cake. In fact, the only consistencies are that paternal behavior is enormously variable and that adult male primates are considerably more involved with their young, on average, than are most other mammalian fathers. Fewer than 10 percent of male mammals help raise young, but the figure jumps to nearly 40 percent in nonhuman primates.¹ And among humans, there is no known culture in which fathers (or father-figures) play no role in childrearing.²...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Babysitters’ Club
    (pp. 109-134)

    Most mammalian mothers do not allow other members of their species to help care for their infants. In contrast, human mothers regularly rely on the help of others to rear their young. Human babies, having lost the ability to cling, are the most helpless of all young primates, mature the most slowly, and are dependent on their parents for the longest period. Imagine an early hominid mother with a baby in her arms—could she have protected and cared for her infant and still maintained her own physical condition without help? Cooperative caregiving has undoubtedly been part of our species’...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Weaning Wars
    (pp. 135-166)

    The story of Flo and Flint illustrates what can go wrong when the time comes for parents to begin withdrawing care from their offspring, as parents shift their focus to the next child (or themselves), and youngsters start down the road to independence. The journey to self-sufficiency is long and arduous in primates. It begins when a young primate is equivalent in age to a 2- to 5-year-old human being, an age group I loosely call “toddlers.” At that point, prosimian, monkey, ape, and human mothers become less attentive and responsive to their youngsters as they approach their next pregnancy...

  9. CHAPTER 6 The Quiet Years
    (pp. 167-192)

    The term “juvenile” is applied by primatologists to the stage of early to middle childhood. A juvenile has been weaned, and is therefore (at least, theoretically) capable of surviving its mother’s death. Smaller and less experienced than adults, yet too grown up to be cared for by their mothers, juvenile nonhuman primates face a very high risk of mortality.²

    Why is survival so difficult? Imagine being the size of a 6- to 12-year-old and having to compete with adults for food and safety. Small size, subordinate status, and relative inexperience put juveniles at a disadvantage when competing with adults for...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Emptying the Nest
    (pp. 193-224)

    We all think we know what we mean by the term “adolescence,” but the nature and even the existence of this phase of the life cycle has been the subject of lively debate for decades. Most agree that adolescence is ushered in by puberty (associated with the cascade of chemical changes in the bodies of young males and females as they become capable of reproducing). When adolescence ends, however, is debatable.

    The length of adolescence among humans is tightly constricted in some cultures and stretched wide in others. A prolonged phase of adolescence reflects a culture’s need for an apprenticeship...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Parenting with Partners
    (pp. 225-262)

    The type of pair bond typical of a species (or population) of primates tells us something about the type of parental care that will be offered by mothers and fathers. Among nonhuman primates, exclusive pair bonds are the exception rather than the rule, and mothers in many primate species raise their young with virtually no help from others. In contrast, some form of pair bond, either permanent or serial, is a cultural universal among humans.¹ Primates may bond with multiple mates at the same time (polygyny or polyandry), or with one mate at a time (monogamy). Polygyny and monogamy are...

  12. CHAPTER 9 Parenting Solo
    (pp. 263-298)

    Nowhere to be found among the preferred mating systems in human cultures is the most common mating system of nonhuman primates: the multimale multifemale society, in which adult males and females live together, without permanent pair bonds, in one cohesive community.² Although humans prefer some type of pair bond, the high divorce rates in many industrialized societies plus the increasing number of adults who never marry are creating a way of life somewhat like that found in multimale multifemale societies of nonhuman primates: solo parents rearing offspring on their own (with no mate at the ready to protect, provide care...

  13. CHAPTER 10 The Dark Side of Parenting
    (pp. 299-342)

    The famous first line of Tolstoy’s novelAnna Kareninasays it well: “All happy families are alike, but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.” The same notion can be applied to parental care. Adequate parental care is similar among human and nonhuman primates and very basic: provide a youngster with warmth, food, shelter, and comfort, rapidly respond to his distress, and protect him from harm, and it is likely that he will mature into a healthy, competent adult. Inadequate care, however, is more idiosyncratic. Of all primates, humans have the dubious distinction of possessing the most varied...

  14. CHAPTER 11 How Much Do Parents Matter?
    (pp. 343-358)

    From the way my clients describe their families while they were growing up, it is difficult to believe that parents have little effect on how their children turn out. But exactly how much influence do parents have?

    In 1924 the first behavioral psychologist, John Watson, wrote the following affirmation of the power of parents: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggar-man...

  15. Who’s Who among Nonhuman Primates
    (pp. 361-368)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 369-424)
  17. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 425-426)
  18. Index
    (pp. 427-436)