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Child abuse The Nonhuman Primate Data. Edited by Martin Reite and Nancy G. Caine. New York Alan R. Liss. 1983. xiii + 186 pp. figures tables references index. $28

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Book Reviews
Child Abuse: The NONHUMAN
Edited by Martin Reite and Nancy G.
Caine. New York: Alan R. Liss. 1983. xiii
+ 186 pp., figures, tables, references, index. $28.00 (cloth).
It is a truism that the mistreatment of children is abhorrent and that steps should be
taken to prevent it. With recently increased
concern over child abuse and neglect have
come new research initiatives into causes and
preventative and therapeutic techniques.
Child Abuse: The Nonhuman Primate Data,
edited by Martin Reite and Nancy Caine,
represents one of these recent efforts.
The study of infant social development, and
particularly mother-infant relationships, has
benefited greatly through the study of nonhuman primates. Resting in this foundation,
this volume sets out to introduce a comparative analysis of child abuse in primate species other
humans for
interdisciplinary readership. It is a collection
from a variety of captive colonies where infants andor juvenile monkeys and apes have
been abused or neglected. In most cases, the
authors have examined past colony records
to determine the incidence of abuse, the conditions under which it occurred, and the
characteristics of the abused infants and
their mothers. Each author attempts to discuss his or her findings in relation to the
literature on human child abuse. A final
chapter attempts to synthesize the findings
with the human literature.
The editors of the book suggest that there
are a number of similarities between human
and nonhuman primate patterns of abuse: 1)
a history of disturbance in early attachment
between mother and infant, 2) a lack of social
support networks, 3) inadequate or absent
parenting of the mother, 4)overcrowding, and
5) a behaviorally “difficult” or demanding
infant. They suggest further that these data
can be used to formulate preventative measures in human societies and they offer several such suggestions in editorials which follow the chapters.
This book is a first attempt to deal with a n
extremely complex and difficult issue from
this perspective. It raises many issues which
need to be raised and numerous hypotheses
0 1984 ALAN R. LISS. INC.
which need to be tested. This in itself makes
it worthwhile. However, as any first effort of
this type, it is necessarily (and admittedly)
preliminary in nature. By necessity, rigorous
data are scarce, many of the concepts are
largely unformed and much of the research
methodology is crude. In many cases, the
data were not gathered with a study of infant
abuse in mind and, as the authors admit, are
incomplete and inadequate. In some colonies,
for example, the identities of the actual abusers are unknown, and although we are told
that X% of the mothers of the abused (i.e.,
injured) infants were in poor health, or were
of a given parity, etc., we are not told how
many mothers in the whole colony were in
poor health or of that parity. Thus, what data
are available are sometimes difficult to interpret. As a result, it is not possible for most
authors to come to more than tentative conclusions, let alone present a conceptual model
of child abuse based on their findings.
Notable exceptions are chapters by Suomi
and Ripp, Plimpton and Rosenblum, and
Nadler. Suomi and Ripp provide an excellent
review of the research on “motherless” rhesus monkey mothers a t the University of
Wisconsin. This review brings the reader up
to date on the preventative and therapeutic
measures taken against maternal abuse and
neglect and on their encouraging results.
Moreover, it suggests a new hypothesis regarding the interaction of experiential and
hereditary factors leading to maternal abuse
and neglect: Not all motherless mothers
abuse their infants-however, those who
undergo a separation from their social peers
as juveniles and who react to that separation
with depression appear to be particularly a t
Plimpton and Rosenblum stress the importance of “ecological” factors in constraining
the mother’s ability to provide constant nurturance to her infant. They illustrate this
point with creatively designed experiments
on bonnet macaque mothers and infants who
are housed in cages where the mother can
either obtain food easily or with a great deal
of time and effort.
Finally, Nadler provides a n informative review of the problems of maternal inadequacy
in captive apes, particularly gorillas. Female
gorillas who are reared apart from their own
mothers are frequently incapable of sustaining life in their infants. Although the problem is more severe in primiparas than in
multiparas, a certain proportion of both kinds
of mothers do indeed succeed in rearing their
young. Nadler presents strong evidence that
the crucial difference between the adequate
and inadequate mothers is that the overwhelming majority of the adequate mothers
were allowed to deliver and rear their infants
within a social group, whereas the majority
of inadequate mothers were socially isolated.
Despite its limitations, this book will undoubtedly stimulate further interest and research. Perhaps in a few years a Child Abuse:
The Nonhuman Primate Data, Vol. II will be
available with studies that build on the
strengths of this initial effort. For Volume 11,
I make several suggestions. Following the
precedent of this volume, researchers should
not deliberately evoke or encourage incidences of abusive behavior; however, future
workers must also be prepared to record the
details of “spontaneous” incidences of abuse,
including the identity of the abuser, the interactions leading up to its occurrence, the
actions of all group members during the incident, and the resolution of the episode.
Moreover, this information should be used to
distinguish cases of maternal abuse from accidental injury and from abuse by other
group members, which may or may not be
due in part to maternal neglect. Mothers,
particularly low-ranking mothers in captivity, may not always be to blame for a n infant’s injury. Such distinctions are important,
because the causes and means of preventing
each form of injury are likely to differ.
In addition, definitional issues need clarification. Should we be interested only in
physical injury and life-threatening neglect,
or also in more subtle forms of maltreatment? If we are interested in more subtle
forms of interaction (as we are with humans)
we will need to grapple not only with the
immediate causes and consequences of hypothesized forms of maltreatment, but also
with their longer-term developmental and
reproductive consequences. As Plimpton and
Rosenblum point out, we can be easily misled
into believing that a certain practice is harmful to a young animal, when it actually enhances its survival. It may also be that
different maternal practices are appropriate
in different rearing environments or for
mothers with different positions within the
social networks of their groups.
Along with a more detailed treatment of developmental issues, increased emphases on
the roles of social structure and function
would be desirable. Many authors suggested
that abuse and neglect were associated with
mothers who lacked a social support network. In order to clarify the role of the social
network in preventing or promulgating
abuse, we need first to describe those networks, the mothers’ places with them, and
the dynamics leading to or preventing abuse.
Here, both proximate and functional analyses of social group dynamics would shed
light on the propensities, opportunities, and
constraints on interpersonal interaction common to the species or particular to the setting
in which it is being studied. Data from the
field, where at least maternal abuse appears
to be more rare than in many captive settings, would be especially helpful here. A
knowledge of group dynamics would shed
light in turn on preventive measures which
could be taken in captivity.
Finally, as Suomi and Ripp suggest, we
need to consider both similarities and differences between abuse and neglect when shown
by human and nonhuman primates before
we assess the relevance of the nonhuman
primate data to humans. When both similarities and differences are considered, the full
power of the comparative method comes into
play, and general principles concerning abuse
can emerge. Powerful preventative measures
are more likely to be suggested from these
principles than from comparisons a t a less
general level of understanding.
HOMINIDORIGINS.Edited by K. J. Reichs.
This book contains seven papers delivered
a t a symposium organized by the Northern
Illinois University Department of Anthropology in the Spring of 1976. Although a considerable amount of time has elapsed between
Washington, DC: University Press of
America. 1983. xxxix + 238 pp., figures,
tables, references. $22.50 (cloth), $11.75
Department of Anthropology
State University of New York
Buffalo, New York
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child, data, figuren, reith, xiii, liss, references, index, new, martin, york, primate, 1983, nancy, cain, abuse, nonhuman, edited, tablet, 186, alan
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