Hormonal correlates of changes in interest in unrelated infants across the peripartum period in female baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis sp.)

Stephanie M. Ramirez, Massimo Bardi, Jeffrey A. French, Linda Brent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In past research on human and nonhuman primates, maternal responsiveness and behavior has been thought of as an experiential, cognitive mechanism; however, recent findings have shown that maternal motivation and behavior may not be entirely divorced from the endocrine system. To investigate the relationship between interest in infants and the hormonal changes related to pregnancy, we examined the nature of social interactions across parturition between a large sample (n = 133) of adult female baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis sp.) and unrelated infants. Prepartum data were collected during ten 30-min focal observations for each subject. Each mother-infant pair was then observed through the infant's first 8 weeks of life. A total of 2325 h of observation was recorded. Urine was collected on 65 subjects, starting 5 weeks before the expected date of parturition and ending 4 weeks after parturition. Evidence for a connection between endocrine function and responsiveness toward infants was found. Affiliative behaviors during the prepartum period were positively correlated to the estrogen/cortisol ratio and high dominance rank. In the postpartum period, affiliative behaviors were positively correlated with prepartum progesterone and dominance rank, and negatively correlated with postpartum cortisol levels. Finally, a positive correlation was recorded during the postpartum period between prepartum progesterone and aggression, and a negative correlation between postpartum cortisol and aggression and submission. Our data suggest that the endocrine changes that may help regulate maternal care of offspring also influence the way in which pre- and postpartum female baboons interact with unrelated infants in their social group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-528
Number of pages9
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Baboon
  • Enzyme immunoassays
  • Hormones
  • Infant-directed behavior
  • Papio
  • Postpartum
  • Prepartum
  • Urinary metabolites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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