The Neurobiology of Maternal Behavior in Mammals

Frédéric Lévy and Alison S. Fleming

in The Development of Social Engagement

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195168716
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199847853 | DOI:

Series: Series in Affective Science

The Neurobiology of Maternal Behavior in Mammals

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This chapter discusses the factors that affect a new mother's initial responses to her offspring and how she is changed by those responses, taking into account the mechanisms underlying maternal behaviour, with the focus on physiological mechanisms and the different behavioural systems they activate. The factors controlling the expression of maternal behaviour are examined, comparing those in altricial and precocial species with those in humans. For both humans and animals, findings show that mechanisms in both the new mother and the offspring stimulate a kind of bond that meets the needs of the offspring and the social organization to which they belong. Maternal behaviour is seen to require prior changes in other behavioural systems, particularly in the affective, perceptual, and learning systems of the animal, and the emotionality of both animals and humans. Without these changes, the mother expresses inadequate, abnormal, or no maternal behaviour.

Keywords: maternal behaviour; physiological mechanism; behavioural systems; mother–offspring bond; neurobiological approach

Chapter.  23412 words. 

Subjects: Neuropsychology

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