New mothers undergo a variety of biological changes that under optimal circumstances operate to prepare them to respond maternally to their young in the context of their own culture, age, parity, and early life experiences. These changes include vast variations in circulating levels of hormones and activation of brain systems that have been shown in many mammalian species to regulate maternal behavior, as well as mothers’ perceptions, cognitions, mood, attraction to infant cues, and executive functioning (i.e., attention and inhibition). The mothering behaviors that scientists measure include nursing, responding contingently and sensitively to the infants’ behavior, anticipating the needs of the infants, and providing affection, warmth, and protection. The display and intensity of the different maternal behaviors depend on a number of factors including ...

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