Pre- and postpartum sex steroids in female marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii): Is there a link with infant survivorship and maternal behavior?

Jeffrey E. Fite, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Recent studies in primates have suggested that pre- and peripartum sex steroid hormones may be important determinants of maternal behavior and motivation, since higher levels of prepartum estrogen are associated with maternal competency and infant survivorship. To test the cross-species generality of this finding, we monitored excreted profiles of estradiol (E2), progesterone metabolites (pregnanediol glucuronide; PdG), and E2: PdG ratios throughout pregnancy in black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii). Additionally, we wanted to determine the extent to which variability in maternal carrying effort was related to hormonal factors and relative levels of maternal experience. For six females, hormonal profiles were determined by enzyme immunoassay for two pregnancies, one in which infants survived at least 2 weeks postpartum and one in which infants did not survive. Our within-subjects analyses revealed significant differences in mean prepartum E2 levels for females in the different infant survival conditions. In contrast to previous findings, however, females exhibited significantly higher prepartum E2 levels when their infants did not survive a minimum of 2 weeks postpartum, relative to when their infants did survive. Maternal carrying effort was also negatively and significantly correlated with prepartum E2 levels. Unlike previous reports in callitrichid primates, then, our data suggest that high concentrations of prepartum E2 in callitrichid primates are not necessarily associated with competent maternal behavior and may instead be associated with poor infant survivorship and inadequate maternal care. Further, our results appear to be convergent with research focusing on human mothers and may represent a common underlying mechanism linking prepartum estrogen and postpartum affect and behavior in some primates. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000


  • Callitrichid
  • Estradiol
  • Infant survival
  • Marmosets
  • Maternal behavior
  • Postpartum
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnanediol glucuronide
  • Prepartum
  • Sex steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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