Infant Signaling: An Environmental Stimulus for Maternal Care
Decades of research on child development has confirmed that infants use specific behavioral signals to elicit maternal responses. This research has also demonstrated the importance of a fit between maternal and infant behavior for optimal psychological and cognitive development of the infant. There is now evidence from animal behavioral studies that neuroendocrine and hormonal mechanisms mediate this link between infant signaling and maternal responsiveness. This paper discusses these recent findings in the context of Bowlby's evolutionary theory of attachment, and proposes a biosocial model for studying cross-cultural and intra-cultural variation in maternal care.
Ainsworth, M.D.S. (1973). The development of infant-mother attachment. In B.M. Caldwell & H.N. Ricciuti (Eds.). Child Development Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Ainsworth, M.D.S. (1977). Infant development and mother-infant interaction among Ganda and American families. In P.H. Leiderman, S.R. Tulkin, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.). Culture and infancy. New York: Academic Press.
Amico, J.A., Seif, S.M., & Robinson, A.G. (1981). Oxytocin in human plasma: correlation with neurophysin and stimulation with estrogen. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 52, 988-993.
Barr, R.G. (1990). The early crying paradox: a modest proposal. Human Nature 7(4), 355-389.
Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and toss. (VoI I). London: Hogarth Press.
Burbach, J.P.H., Bohus, B., Kovacs, G.L., Van Nispen, J.W., Greven, H.M., & DeWied, D. (1983). Oxytocin is a precursor of potent behaviourally active neuropeptides. European Journal of Pharmacology 94, 125-131.
Chandran, P.E. (1989). Biological influence of infant death on fertility. Journal of Biosocial Science 21, 217-221.
Colonna, F., Uxa, F., da Graca, A.M., & de Vonderweld, U. (1990). The "kangaroomother" method: evaluation of an alternative model for the care of low birth weight newborns in developing countries. International Journal ofGynecology and Obstetrics 31: 335-339.
Curtis, S.L. & McDonald, J.W. (1991). Birth spacing and infant mortality in Brazil. Journal of Biosocial Science 23, 343-352.
Dawood, M.Y., Khan-Dawood, F.S., Wahi, R.S., & Fuchs, F. (1981). Oxytocin release and plasma anterior pituitary and gonadal hormones in women during lactation. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 52, 678-683.
deKloet, E.R., Door, A.M., Voorhuis, Y.B., & Elands, J. (1986). Estradiol modulates density of putative 'oxytocin receptors' in discrete rat brain regions. Neuroendocrinology 44, 415-421.
Demitrack, M.A. & Gold, P.W. (1989). Oxytocin: Neurobiologie considerations and their implications for affective illness. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry 12, S23-S51.
Fahrback, S.E., Morrell, J.I. & Pfaff, D.W. (1984). Role of oxytocin in the onset of estrogen-facilitated maternal behavior. In J.A. Amico & A.G. Robinson (Eds.). Oxytocin: clinical and laboratory studies. New York: Elsevier Science Publishing Co., Inc.
Hanson, L.A. & Bergstrom, J.S. (1990). The link between infant mortality and birth rates-the importance of breastfeeding as a common factor. Acta Paediatric Scandanavia 79, 481-489.
Herbert, J. (1989). Partitioning of neuroendocrine steroids and peptides between vascular and cerebral compartments. In F.R. Brush & S. Levine (Eds.). Psychoendocrinology. New York: Academic Press.
Hewlett, B.S. (1991). Demography and childcare in preinducstial societies. Journal of Anthropological Research 47(1), 1-37.
Howie, P.W. & McNeilly, A.S. (1982). Effect of breast-feeding patterns on human birth intervals. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 65, 545-557.
Insel, T.R. (1992). Oxytocin-A neuropeptide for affiliation: evidence from behavioral, receptor autoradiographic, and comparative studies. Psychoneuroendocrinology 17(1), 3-35.
Johnston, C.A., Lopez, F., Samson, W.K., & Negro-Vilar A. (1990). Physiologically important role for central oxytocin in the preovulatory release of luteinizing hormone. Neuroscience Letters 120, 256-258.
Kastin, A. J., Banks, W.A., & Zadina, J.E. (1992). A decade of changing perceptions about neuropeptides. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1-7.
Keverne, E.B. (1988). Central mechanisms underlying the neural and neuroendocrine determinants of maternal behaviour. Psychoneuroendocrinology 13, 127-141.
Konner, M. (1977). Infancy among the Kalahari Desert San. In P.H. Leiderman, S.R. Tulkin, & A. Rosenfeld (Eds.). Culture and infancy. New York: Academic Press.
Konner, M. & Worthman, C.M. (1980). Nursing frequency, gonadal function, and birth spacing among !Kung hunter-gatherers. Science 207, 788-791.
Majumder, A.K. (1991) Breast-feeding, birth interval and child mortality in Bangladesh. Journal of Biosocial Science 23, 297-312.
McCarthy, M.M. (1990). Oxytocin inhibits infanticide in female house mice. Hormones and Behavior 24, 365-375.
McNeilly, A.S., Robinson, I.C.A., Houston, M.J., & Howie, P.W. (1983). Release of oxytocin and prolactin in response to suckling. British Medical Journal 286, 257-259.
Miller, B.D. (1981). The endangered sex. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Noel, G.L., Suh, H.K., & Frantz, A.G. (1974). Prolactin release during nursing and breast stimulation in postpartum and nonpostpartum subjects. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 38, (3), 413-423.
Pedersen, C.A. and Prange, A.J. (1985). Oxytocin and mothering behavior in the rat. Pharmac. Ther. 28: 287-302.
Peterson, G., Mason, G.A., Barakat, A.S., & Pedersen, C.A. (1991). Oxytocin selectively increases holding and licking of neonates in preweanling but not postweanling juvenile rats. Behavioral Neuroscience 105 (3), 470-477.
Richard, P., Moos, F., & Freund-Mercier, M. J. (1991). Central effects of oxytocin. Physiological Reviews 71 (2), 331-370.
Richman, A.L., Miller, P.M., & LeVine, R.A. (1992). Cultural and educational variations in maternal responsiveness. Developmental Psychology 28 (4), 614-621.
Samson, W.K., Lumpkin, M.D., & McCann, S.M. (1986). Evidence for a physiological role for oxytocin in the control of prolactin secretion. Endocrinology 119, (2), 554-560.
Schanberg, S.M. & Field, T.M. (1987). Sensory deprivation stress and supplemental stimulation in the rat pup and preterm human neonate. Child Development 58, 1431-1447.
Scheper-Hughes, N. (1985). Culture, scarcity, and maternal thinking: maternal detachment and infant survival in a Brazilian shantytown. Ethos 13, 291-317.
Stern, J.M. (1986). Licking, touching, and suckling: contact stimulation and maternal psychobiology in rats and women. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 474, 95-107.
Stern, J.M. (1989). Maternal behavior: sensory, hormonal, and neural determinants. In F.R. Brush & S. Levine (Eds.). Psychoendocrinology. New York: Academic Press.
Stern, J.M., Konner, M., Herman, T.N., & Reichlin, S. (1986). Nursing behaviour, prolactin and postpartum amenorrhoea during prolonged lactation in American and !Kung mothers. Clinical Endocrinology 25, 247-258.
Joy F. Stallings is a graduate student at Emory University in the Institute of Liberal Arts working on an interdisciplinary PhD in anthropology and public health. She received a B.S. in medical technology from Georgia State University in 1972 and an M.P.H. in 1988 from Emory University School of Public Health. She holds a research position in the Laboratory of Comparative Human Biology (Department of Anthropology, Emory University, laboratory of Dr. Carol M. Worthman). Her research interests are the biosocial mediators of parental care, differential investment, reproductive development, and fertility. Address correspondence to Department of Anthropology, Emory University, Geology Building, Room 307, Atlanta, GA 30322.