Abstract # 73:

Scheduled for Thursday, August 18, 2005 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: (Cambridge/Oxford Room) Poster Presentation

A comparison of pre- and postpartum urinary hormone profiles of abusive and non-abusive marmoset mothers, Callithrix kuhlii

C. N. Ross1,2, H. R. Maxwell1,4 and J. A. French1,3
1Callitrichid Research Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, NE, 2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, 3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Omaha, 4Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska, Omaha
     Recent studies of infant abuse in monkeys suggest neglect is an adaptive response to social and environmental constraints, whereas physical abuse is maladaptive aggression. Several factors may contribute to the onset of abusive actions including social stress, maternal experience, and genetics. Underlying each of these mechanisms is the possibility of variable endocrine cues. For instance, activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) in humans has been associated with a mother’s attachment to her newborn. For this study, we utilized a repeated measures design to compare the pre- and postpartum endocrine profiles of seven Wied’s black tufted-ear marmosets identified from colony records as never displaying abusive behavior towards offspring, to the profiles of six females that exhibited naturally occurring abusive behavior. Endocrine profiles were generated from archived urine samples, which were collected during the five-month gestational period and two weeks postpartum. Abusive behavior was defined as nonfatal tail chewing, or chewing of body parts that resulted in infant death during the first two postpartum weeks. Abusive mothers were found to have significantly lower concentrations of cortisol throughout the pregnancy and postpartum period (F1, 11 = 4.838, P = 0.05). This investigation suggests that rather than being stressed mothers, these females may have suppressed HPA activity during pregnancy. Studies such as this may shed light on the processes influencing abuse in all primate females, including human mothers.