In animals, perturbations of the rearing environment have been shown to alter behavior, cognition, and physiology, including immune responses. In order to evaluate the effect of early rearing conditions on the development of immune responses in the infant primate, several immunological measures were assessed in rhesus monkey infants, nursery-reared (NR) or mother-reared (MR), from birth to 2 years of age. Rearing in the absence of the mother affected several aspects of cellular immunity. NR monkeys had significantly lower proportions of CD8 cells and lower natural killer cell activity than did MR monkeys. In contrast, their lymphocyte proliferation responses to mitogen stimulation were higher than those of MR monkeys. An attempt to behaviorally rehabilitate the NR infants at 1 year of age did not result in a recovery of normal immune responses. This study indicates that abnormal early rearing may have long-lasting effects on the immune system, which could have health consequences later in life.