The Infant’s Effort to Cope with Separation

  • Leonard A. Rosenblum
  • Edward H. Plimpton
Part of the Genesis of Behavior book series (GOBE, volume 3)


The social setting within which the human and nonhuman primate develops has been a pivotal element in the evolution of the order. Except in a few species (e.g., orangutan), relatively elaborate social structures have emerged based on kinship, gender, age, and status factors, each attuned to particular environmental demands (Eisenberg, Muckinhirn, & Rudran, 1972; Gartlan, 1968). The crucial role of primate adaptation through disparate forms of social organization is perhaps best reflected in the fact that wild primates of the same or closely related species living under different ecological conditions develop dramatically different forms of social organization (Struhsaker & Leland, 1979). It is perhaps not surprising then that the abrupt loss or chronic absence of the network of social support normally available to primates often results in quite serious behavioral debilitation. In light of the relatively prolonged period of infantile dependency in these higher forms, such loss of social support is particularly disruptive in infants. The loss of social support may vary from episodic, relatively brief disruptions in contact with attachment figures, an everyday event, to the trauma of abrupt, complete, and sustained loss. On the other hand, the social structure and its contact with the developing infant can vary from elaborated kinship and troop systems common to wild primates and many human cultures, to the nuclear family, the single parent, or the isolation provided by unfortunate societal or planned experimental conditions. While relatively few may suffer the most traumatic forms of loss, virtually all confront some form of these experiences during their lives, and hence the study of these phenomena has provided considerable scientific as well as literary interest throughout our history.


Nonhuman Primate Squirrel Monkey Social Play Maternal Separation Attachment Figure 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard A. Rosenblum
    • 1
  • Edward H. Plimpton
    • 1
  1. 1.Downstate Medical Center, Department of PsychiatryState University of New YorkBrooklynUSA

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