Primate Developmental Models of Stress
Leonard A. Rosenblum Michael Andrews State University of New York
Both common experience and the scientific literature reflect the idea that when it comes to potentially stressful life events, "one man's meat is another man's poison." Living in trees, eating leaves, fruits, and an occasional insect, and avoiding sporadic predators may be "normal," nonstressful features of life for many primates. The same conditions may nevertheless be stressful for other animals to whom such experiences are quite alien--the urban human primate, for example. The origins of these distinguishing coping capacities clearly lie in both genetic history and individual experiences. Thus a comparative, developmental perspective represents an important approach to the question, "When two genetically similar organisms confront a situation, why does one experience stress whereas the other does not?"
Genetic factors, such as those differentiating species, sex, and particular subsets of individuals, play identifiable roles in influencing responses to given situations (e.g., Clarke, Mason, & Moberg, 1988; Rosenblum, Kaufman, & Stynes, 1964). As a consequence, simple conclusions regarding human stress should not be drawn directly from research on the genetically distinct nonhuman primates. Nonhuman primate models, as with all psychobiological animal models, can, however, play a vital role in ordering the priorities of hypothesis testing and theory construction at the human level. Moreover, as reflected in our opening