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Maternal behaviour is a term embracing all those behaviours related to being a mother. It is used synonomously with 'caring for the young'. It is currently regarded as a biased phrase as many fathers show nurturing behaviour] and the more appropriate term parenting behaviour is now preferred.

That said appropriate maternal care can have important implications for the physical and mental health of children, while maternal deprivation can have negative effects.

Animal studiesEdit

Micheal Meaney's research focused on the relationship between early maternal care and stress response in rat pups. Meaney and colleagues found that pups taken outside of their maternal environment to be handled for 15 minutes a day had lower hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) responses than pups separated from their mothers for 3 hours a day and pups with no handling whatsoever. He hypothesized that glucocorticoid receptor (GR) density was involved in the HPA feedback loop.[1] Meaney and colleagues later went on to confirm this feedback loop in research examining the effect of maternal care on GR expression. In this research, Meaney and colleagues separated mother rats into two groups: high licking and grooming (HLG) mothers and low licking and grooming (LLG) mothers. Pups of HLG mothers had a significantly greater density of GRs in their hippocampus than pups of LLG mothers. Further, this research—unlike previous research—established a causational relationship between maternal care and behaviroal epigenetic programing with cross fostering of pups by various mothers of differing maternal behaviors.[2] The causal relationship between maternal care and epigenetic programing was further solidified by studying estrogen receptor expression in the medial pre-optic area of the brain. This research found that HLG mothers create pups that are also HLG mothers even with cross fostering.[3]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Plotsky, P.M. and Meaney, M.J. (1992) Early, postnatal experience alters hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) mRNA, median eminence CRF content and stress-induced release in adult rats. Molecular Brain Research, 18,195-200.
  2. Weaver, I.C.G., Cervoni, N., Champagne, F.A., D’Alessio, A.C., Sharma, S., Seckl, J.R., Dymov, S., Szyf, M., & Meaney, M.J. (2004) Epigenetic programming by maternal behavior. Nature Neuroscience, 7(8), 847-854.
  3. Champagne, F.A., Weaver, I.C.G, Diorio, J., Dymov, S., Szyf, M., & Meaney, M.J. (2006). Maternal care associated with methylation of the estrogen receptor-alpha 1b promoter and estrogen receptor-alpha expression in the medial preoptic area of female offspring. Endocrinology, 147(6), 2909-2915

Further readingEdit

Key textsEdit

BooksEdit

H.L. Rheingold (1963)(ed.) Maternal Behaviour in Mammals, New York: John Wiley.

PapersEdit

  • Harlow, H.F., Harlow, M.K. and Hansen, E.W. (1963) The maternal affectional system of rhesus monkeys. In: H.L. Rheingold (ed.) Maternal Behaviour in Mammals, New York: John Wiley.
  • Hersher, L., Richmond, J.B. and Moore, A.U. (1963a) Maternal behaviour in sheep and goats. In: H.L. Rheingold (ed.) Maternal Behaviour in Mammals, New York: John Wiley.
  • Hersher, L., Richmond, J.B. and Moore, A.U. (1963b) Modifiability of the critical period for the development of maternal behaviour in sheep and goats, Behaviour 20: 311-20.
  • Ross, S., Sawin, P.B„ Zarrow, M.X, and Denenberg, V.H. (1963) Maternal behaviour in the rabbit. In: H.L. Rheingold (ed.) Maternal Behaviour in Mammals, New York: John Wiley.
  • Rosenblatt, J.S. and l.ehrmann, D, S. (1963) Maternal behaviour of the laboratory rat. In: H.L. Rheingold (ed.) Maternal Behaviour in Mammals, New York: John Wiley.

Additional materialEdit

BooksEdit

PapersEdit

External linksEdit

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