Evolutionary and Environmental Factors Influencing Attachment Patterns in Nonhuman Primates
Leonard A. Rosenblum
Gayle S. Paully
The prolonged and intense attachment of infant nonhuman primates and their mothers can be understood as part of a matrix of comparative, evolutionary relationships between the human and nonhuman primates. These relationships relate in part to the comparable reproductive strategies within the primate order, the evolutionary trends towards neoteny in primates, and the allometric relationships to body size that primates hold in common. Our research indicates that within this framework, nonhuman primate mothers and their infants alter their attachment towards one another in relation to varying demands of their physical environment and in particular to the relative stability of their feeding ecology and the work requirements imposed on the mothers. Effects of these alterations are seen both in the acute reactions of the partners and in terms of the security of the infants in the presence of the mother and their reactions to maternal loss.
Human and nonhuman primates share many features in common, not the least of which is the uniquely intense and enduring attachment that emerges between mother and infant in the neonatal period and can remain a pivotal element throughout life. The close affinity between man and the other primates has been recognized at least since the time of Galen, nearly 2000 years ago. However, it is not merely the phylogentic closeness of man to the nonhuman primates that permits their use in explicating the incredible diversity of factors shaping human development. Relatively close common ancestry does not in itself specify the communality of ontogentic demands exerted during development. Rather it is in the nature of the problems confronted during development and the physical and psychological properties held in common with the other primates that make the