Motivation of Mothers Care
Among many lower animals, a characteristic type of behavior is exhibited following delivery of the newborn. This behavior is so universal and unvarying that it has sometimes been called a “maternal instinct.” All the female rats, for example, exhibit the same behavior as a human mother, regardless of whether a litter of young is their first and regardless of whether they have had the opportunity to observe other female rats with litters. The pattern of behavior is consistent and is virtually always as follows: the female licks the pups when they are born, then bites off the umbilical cord, eats the placenta, builds a nest, retrieves the young, places them in the nest, and crouches over them. Amazing isn't it?
Can such stereotyped behavior as that exhibited by female rats following the birth of a litter be accounted for on physiological basis? At present, there is contradictory evidence concerning whether this behavior can be explained by what goes on within the animal’s body during and following pregnancy. It is found out that when prolactin, a hormone secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, was injected into a virgin female rats, or even male rats, it caused the animals to retrieve the newborn and care for them. A recent attempt to duplicate the study, however, was unsuccessful.
Evidence that not all material behavior can be attributed to the hormonal changes that occur at the time of delivery, or even at puberty, is found in a study by Chamove, Harlow, and Mitchell. They compared infant-directed behavior in both male and female preadolescent rhesus monkeys. Females directed four times more positive social behavior toward infants than did the males and conversely, males showed 10 times more hostile behavior toward the infants than did the females.
While relatively stereotyped and fixed maternal behavior is found among lower animals, with animals such as chimpanzees or humans, the maternal behavior becomes more variable. It is obvious that human mothers do not go through a sequential pattern of behavior following delivery of their offspring, as many other animals do. Furthermore, the fact that human mothers must often receive extensive instruction on how to care for infants indicates that learning plays a great role in maternal behavior.
Among human beings, maternal behavior involves both learned and physiological factors plus the love she possess to her children. It seems reasonable to conclude, however, that learning is more important in human maternal behavior than it is in the maternal behavior of lower animals.