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Research on Baby Marmosets Offers Insight into Human Parenting and Child Development

Research on Baby Marmosets Offers Insight into Human Parenting and Child Development

Science

In a pioneering study, researchers have explored how baby marmosets react to different caregivers to better understand human parenting and its impact on child development. The study, led by Associate Professor Atsuko Saito of Sophia University, with contributions from a team at RIKEN Center for Brain Science and other institutions, found that the quality of care provided by caregivers influences the development of attachment and independence in these primates, offering parallels to human children.

Published in the journal Communications Biology on February 20, 2024, the research highlights how the secure attachments formed between infants and their caregivers are crucial for their cognitive, social, and emotional growth. These attachments vary based on how responsive caregivers are to the needs of the infants. Infants raised with attentive caregiving tend to develop secure and healthy attachments, whereas neglect can lead to insecurity and emotional developmental challenges.

The common marmoset, a small monkey native to South America, serves as an ideal model

As a result of its family dynamics similar to humans, where caregiving is shared among parents and older siblings. “Marmoset babies modify their attachment behaviors based on their interaction with various caregivers. This adaptability is thought to influence their development and independence, providing insights into human child development,” explained Dr. Saito.

During their study, the researchers observed how infant marmosets responded to being reunited with their caregivers after a short separation. The infants typically sought comfort by clinging to familiar caregivers and ceased calling out once their needs were met by patient and attentive individuals. Conversely, they avoided less responsive caregivers and continued to express distress.

The study also found that marmoset infants separated from their families at an early age and raised artificially showed less adaptive behavior.

These marmosets continued to seek attention and exhibited delayed developmental independence compared to those raised within their family groups.

Dr. Saito notes that the study not only sheds light on the flexibility of attachment behaviors in marmosets but also underscores the potential for various family members to contribute actively to caregiving. This can alleviate the pressures traditionally placed on mothers and encourage a more collaborative approach to child-rearing.

The findings from this research are currently being used to further investigate how experiences of attachment and detachment influence brain development in marmosets, with the aim of improving parenting practices and childcare support systems in human societies.

Journal: Communications Biology

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s42003-024-05875-6