Mother-offspring relationships: Mothering styles in the wild chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) of the Sonso community at Budongo, Uganda
My master thesis will be under the guidance of Professor Klaus Zuberbühler and PhD student Corinne Ackermann. It will be a study of 6 months (July 2016 – December 2016) at the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda.
For many long-living mammalian species, maternal care has a profound and direct effect on the integration of offspring in complex social environments. Research has for long been interested in early effects of mother-offspring interactions on the social and cognitive development of the infants. Differences in maternal (“mothering”) behaviours are interesting both for humans and non-human primates. An understanding of how mothering styles may affect offspring’s life is a cornerstone for human mind and human evolution research.
My project aims at observing mother-infant relationships in wild chimpanzees and describing potential differences in mothering styles between primiparous (first-time mothers) and multiparous (experienced mothers) females. Rejecting mothers tend to stay longer off contact with their infants, interrupt more often the contact and prevent them from making contact. On the other hand, protective mothers will maintain longer contacts, restrain their infants and watch them longer.
Additionally, maternal anxiety (scratching and glancing) is known to be a good measure of behavioural variability between primi- and multiparous females. If there are any differences in mothering styles between my focal females, I will try to determine what factors influence this variability. Mother’s own experience, age, anxiety, and dominance rank as well as infant sex and presence of siblings will be considered.