What Babies Want
Oxytocin: The Next Human Enhancement Drug

Mothering and Fathering Influence Bonding in Adult Voles

Larry Young and Todd Ahern of the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory found that "early life nurturing impacts later life relationships."

It's still another data point in the enormous body of evidence showing how important it is for kids to get early nurturing, love and care. Larry Young was one of the second wave of oxytocin researchers working on the monogamous prairie voles. This research showed that oxytocin was crucial for the prairie voles' ability to form pair bonds.

In this experiment, also with prairie voles, Young and Ahern compared prairie vole pups raised by a single mother with those raised by a male and female couple. In the wild, prairie voles mate for life in a system described as social monogamy. That is, the couples live together and cooperate in raising offspring; they may engage in some extra-pair copulation, the rodent version of affairs.

The pups raised by a single mother got a lower level of care than those raised by a cooperating couple.  And when they reached adulthood, they weren't as enthusiastic parents.

According to the press release,

"These results suggest naturalistic variation in social rearing conditions can introduce diversity into adult nurturing and attachment behaviors. S[ingle-mother]-raised pups were slower to make life-long partnerships, and they showed less interest in nurturing pups in their communal families," says Young.