Although research with animal models figures prominently in the study of other major public health threats, little or no research with animal models of child abuse and neglect is currently being conducted. The spontaneous occurrence of maternal abuse of offspring in group-living monkeys is a phenomenon that shares several similarities with human child abuse and neglect. The determinants and consequences of this phenomenon, however, have not been systematically investigated. This project investigates the causes of the spontaneous occurrence of infant abuse in a large population of group-living rhesus macaques. The project will be conducted in 5 years at the Field Station of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center.
The specific aims of this project are: to investigate the incidence of infant abuse within and across families over a period of 35 years, using a database already available; to gather a large set of data on the parenting style of abusive mothers, the behavior of abused infants, and the circumstances in which abuse occurs; to investigate the role of estrogen and the opioid and serotonergic systems in the etiology of maternal abusive behavior with physiological measurements and pharmacological challenges; to investigate the mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of infant abuse by cross-fostering female infants between abusive and nonabusive mothers and then studying their maternal behavior and its physiological correlates when they give birth to their own infants. At the end of the proposed project, a large body of genealogical, demographic, behavioral, physiological, and pharmacological data concerning infant abuse will be available. This information will be used to develop biological, social, and behavioral predictors of infant abuse and to identify at-risk individuals and situations. This project will significantly enhance our understanding of the causes and consequences of infant abuse in primates and could have important implications for prevention and treatment of child maltreatment as well.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Study Section
Psychobiology, Behavior, and Neuroscience Review Committee (PBN)
Program Officer
Delcarmen-Wiggins, Rebecca
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Emory University
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
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Saltzman, Wendy; Maestripieri, Dario (2011) The neuroendocrinology of primate maternal behavior. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 35:1192-204
Maestripieri, Dario; Lindell, Stephen G; Higley, J Dee (2007) Intergenerational transmission of maternal behavior in rhesus macaques and its underlying mechanisms. Dev Psychobiol 49:165-71
Maestripieri, Dario; McCormack, Kai; Lindell, Stephen G et al. (2006) Influence of parenting style on the offspring's behaviour and CSF monoamine metabolite levels in crossfostered and noncrossfostered female rhesus macaques. Behav Brain Res 175:90-5
Maestripieri, Dario; Higley, J Dee; Lindell, Stephen G et al. (2006) Early maternal rejection affects the development of monoaminergic systems and adult abusive parenting in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Behav Neurosci 120:1017-24
Maestripieri, Dario (2005) Early experience affects the intergenerational transmission of infant abuse in rhesus monkeys. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 102:9726-9
Maestripieri, Dario; Lindell, Stephen G; Ayala, Alejandro et al. (2005) Neurobiological characteristics of rhesus macaque abusive mothers and their relation to social and maternal behavior. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 29:51-7
Maestripieri, Dario (2005) Effects of early experience on female behavioural and reproductive development in rhesus macaques. Proc Biol Sci 272:1243-8
Maestripieri, Dario; Ross, Stephen R (2004) Sex differences in play among western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) infants: implications for adult behavior and social structure. Am J Phys Anthropol 123:52-61
Maestripieri, Dario (2003) Similarities in affiliation and aggression between cross-fostered rhesus macaque females and their biological mothers. Dev Psychobiol 43:321-7
Graves, Franklynn C; Wallen, Kim; Maestripieri, Dario (2002) Opioids and attachment in rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) abusive mothers. Behav Neurosci 116:489-93

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