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Student Prize Award Abstract
2000 Poster Paper Honorable Mention


Tristan M. Nicholson1,3, J. S. Lockard1,2,3 and J. C. Ha1,2
1 Infant Primate Research Laboratory, University of Washington, Box 357920, Seattle, WA 98195
2 Department of Psychology, University of Washington
3 Department of Anthropology, University of Washington

Studies of normal and special needs human children have consistently reported modest increases in peer interaction when children with special needs are mainstreamed with typically developing peers. The present study addressed the impact of social experience with atypical peers during infancy among nursery reared pigtailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina). The subjects were 228 infant pigtailed macaques, nursery reared in single cages and socialized for 30 minutes per weekday according to laboratory protocol. Normal infants had no behavioral or physical abnormalities or experimental manipulation. Atypical infants had naturally occurring congenital or genetic defects, or experimentally induced possible developmental problems. Social interactions were assessed with focal-animal, 4-digit mutually exclusive and exhaustive real-time behavioral codes. Analyses consisted of cluster regression with robust standard error estimates to assess differences across two-month age-blocks (1-10 months) and among social groups varying in the proportion of atypical infants. Normal infants with atypical peers exhibited more social exploration (p < .001), socially passive contact (p < .009) and a trend towards more social play (p < .07) at all ages compared to infants with only typical peers. The finding, that social experience within a diverse peer group of infant pigtailed macaques results in higher levels of specific affiliative interactions, supports the use of this model to assess comparatively the effects of mainstreaming, by allowing greater control over experimental variables than is possible in the human condition.

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