Friday, July 1, 2011

Of Monkeys and Friends

An article published in Science Daily in January 2010 talked about the importance of siblings on human children's socialization.  Their influence is such that as adults, and long after we have departed the nest, our lives are still considerably influenced by them socially and emotionally.
The article was based on studies carried out by Professor Laurie Kramer (Illinois University) on siblings as "agents of socialization".
Friends are also very important in socialization and have a considerable influence on us, especially during our teen years.  Studies show that adolescents often pick up smoking as a result of "peer pressure".
Our parents teach us right from wrong, how to behave in public, clean up, eat properly.  They teach us the basics, as well as the love and care we need.

Similarly, monkey and great ape mothers are instrumental in the development of their offsprings. They protect them from danger, feed them, teach them the essential skills they will need to fend for themselves.  They discipline them and keep a watchful eye on them as they explore the world around us.
Monkeys and apes toddlers and children grow up with lots of "aunts" around them - other females from the group who help mothers with baby sitting and socialization.  Older siblings also babysit.
Young monkeys play with other monkeys their own age - this is how they learn to fight, solve social conflict, form alliances and simply have fun.
Much like humans, monkeys and apes grow up with a personality of their own, a unique way of dealing with life and need social structure to develop as healthy adults.

In the 1940s, RenĂ© Spitz conducted experiments on orphaned children - depriving them of human contacts.  The studies showed that children raised in isolation were more prone to infection, lacked confidence, were less curious and at two years of age most had not acquired language skills.

In the 1960s, Harry Harlow conducted a similar experiment with rhesus monkeys - taking them away from their mothers a few hours after they were born and raising them in complete isolation for up to 12 months.  The monkeys demonstrated a complete lack of social skills and exhibited behaviors normally associated to autism.

Both experiments demonstrated that to develop social abilities and self confidence both humans and non-human primates need the loving care and attention of family and friends.

Baby baboons playing:

 Baby chimpanzees playing:

Gorilla Mother and Baby cuddling and kissing:

Orangutan mother and child cuddling

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