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The frequency of rejection then increases rapidly with infant age to a peak at four months of age. 1b). By the time an infant 26 Fairbanks and Mcguire Fig. 1b. Ventral contact. is six months old, it is observed in ventral contact with its mother about 20 percent of the time, and the mother controls when this contact will occur. 1c). Maternal rejection takes a variety of forms during this period, from simple shielding of the nipple to prevent suckling, to overt conﬂict that involves pushing, hitting, and biting by the mother accompanied by tantrums and increased attempts to maintain contact by the infant (Jay 1963; Ransom and Rowell 1972; Nash 1978).
In the ﬁrst seventeen years of breeding records from the vervet colony, the majority of pregnancies of three-year-old mothers resulted in failure. Pregnant three-year-olds are more likely to have problems with delivery, more likely to produce a stillborn infant, and more likely to lose a live-born infant in the ﬁrst few months of life (Fairbanks and McGuire 1984; Fairbanks 2003). If an adolescent mother succeeds in delivering a live infant, she is often noticeably physically depleted. In these cases, when a mother is in marginal condition for reproduction, we would expect her to limit the amount of care she gives to her infant so she doesn’t jeopardize her own survival and possibilities for reproduction in the future.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the rate of maternal rejection and punishment is at its highest point during the mating season (Worlein et al. 1988; Collinge 1991; Berman et al. 1994). Infants will use a variety of means to regain access to their mothers, but the more the infant persists, the more punishment it receives. Some infants respond by chasing after the mother. Others spend more time grooming her in an attempt to remain in contact. A few infants, by virtue of their increased tenacity, actually manage to increase the amount of time they spend in ventral contact, while others experience relatively long periods of separation and neglect.