Commentary| Volume 70, ISSUE 9, P804-805, November 01, 2011

Parenthood, Stress, and the Brain

      Motherhood holds a unique place in mammalian behavior and knowledge of its neurobiology may serve as a prototype for other forms of sociality. In mammals, maternity is at the heart of both reproduction and individual survival. Seeking to highlight the importance of breast-feeding, Linneaus defined Mammalia taxonomically according to the unique capacity of female mammals to lactate. Although hatchlings produced by their reptilian ancestors as well as by some contemporary reptiles sometimes benefit from maternal defense, newborn mammals cannot survive without their mother's milk. Hence, in mammals the attachment relationship between a mother and child also is the most accepted form of enduring social bond, with potential benefits for both (
      • Carter C.S.
      Neuroendocrine perspectives on social attachment and love.
      ). Even though social bonds with fathers and other group members (allomothers) may also be very important, the bonds between mother and offspring were the earliest social relationships. These attachments shaped the infrastructure of the mammalian nervous system and ultimately the structure of families and more generally societies.
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