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As with most primates, optimal development in infancy proceeds with a high degree of intimacy and interaction between infants and caretakers. Human infants are less developed at birth than most primates because of selection for a greater percentage of brain growth to take place after birth than in utero. Reasons for delayed development of brain include the high degree of intimacy between maternal and fetal systems because of the hemochorial placenta; the upper limits to intrauterine brain development imposed by the maternal pelvis; and the advantage of having the brain develop in the more challenging environment outside the uterus. The impact of delayed development on the caretaker is reviewed, as are the effects of the quality of the neonatal environment on subsequent development of visual, locomotor, linguistic, and manipulative skills.
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Wenda R. Trevathan, Ph.D.
New Mexico State University
Wenda Trevathan, a biological anthropologist, is an associate professor of anthropology at New Mexico State University. Her research interests focus on the evolution of human reproductive behavior with special emphasis on childbirth and the socio-sexual effects on ovarian functioning. Address correspondence to her at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, New Mexico State University, Box 3BV, Las Cruces, NM 88003.