Early experience and cross-generational continuity of mother-infant contact in vervet monkeys

Dev Psychobiol. 1989 Nov;22(7):669-81. doi: 10.1002/dev.420220703.


This report presents evidence that suggests that spontaneously-occurring variation in early mother-infant experience within the normal range can influence primate mothering behavior in the next generation. Longitudinal observations of vervet monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus) living in naturally composed captive social groups demonstrated that the average amount of contact that mothers maintained with their infants in the first six months of life could be predicted by the amount of mother-infant contact the females had experienced as infants. A female's early experience in infancy was a better predictor of adult mothering behavior than variables measuring social learning as a juvenile, shared circumstances, and average similarity between mothers and daughters.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cercopithecus / physiology*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops / physiology*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Imitative Behavior / physiology*
  • Individuality*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior*
  • Probability
  • Social Behavior*