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Animal Species and Motherhood

  • By: Miranda E. Jennings
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Motherhood in animal species can be defined as those behaviors directed toward the care and maintenance of offspring and often the offspring of close relatives. These behaviors can start before conception in some species, and can continue well into the young animal's life in others species. Maternal behavior is very varied among the animal species and can fall anywhere along this spectrum of care. In some cases, the maternal behavior is aberrant and includes behaviors such as cannibalism. Biological, experiential, and environmental mechanisms can be used to understand the observed maternal behavior in animals. Additionally, the study of animal maternal behavior has been used to provide a model for human maternal behavior.

Variation in Maternal Interaction

The spectrum of maternal behavior ranges from animals that never see ...

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