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.
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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.
JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.