Evolutionary roots of intuitive parenting: Maternal competence in chimpanzees
Intuitive parenting behaviours have been shown to be universal in humans and appear to be based on psychobiological preadaptedness. This study is an exploration of the evolutionary roots of intuitive parenting through naturalistic observation of mother chimpanzees' interaction with their very young infants. Maternal competence is demonstrated initially through the behaviours of carrying the newborn infant and allowing the infant to nurse. Very early mother–infant interactions include play, ‘exercise’, cradling and grooming. Chimpanzee mothers also assess their offspring's behavioural state and muscle tone through visual inspections and movement of legs, arms, fingers and toes. Chimpanzee mothers and infants, as early as 2 weeks of age, spend some time in mutual gaze. Neonatal chimpanzees are capable of sustained face-to-face interactions, as these were observed in nursery-reared chimpanzee interactions with human adults; however, it appears that chimpanzee mothers encourage mutual gaze with their infants for only brief durations. Chimpanzees with good maternal competence exhibit sensitive responsivity to infants' communicatory signals. Thus the results of this study support the claim that there are evolutionary and comparative foundations of intuitive parenting evident in the maternal behaviour and maternal competence of chimpanzees.