The development of behavioural sex differences in infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Gillian Ruth Brown, A F Dixson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Studies of infant rhesus macaques have generally reported sex differences in the frequency of expression of some behaviour patterns, such as rough-and-tumble play and socio-sexual mounting. In contrast, sex differences in other behaviour patterns, such as proximity to the mother, have been less consistantly reported. Using data on the behavioural development of infant rhesus macaques living in captive social groups, we have attempted to provide further evidence for, or against, sex differences in behaviour and to investigate the possible influence of maternal rank and parity on sex differences in infant behaviour and mother-infant interactions. The behaviour of 14 male and 20 female infants and their mothers was studied during the first six months of life, including measures of play behaviour socio-sexual mounting, and mother-infant interactions. Our data reveal that, on average, male infants exhibited more rough-and-tumble play and mounting than female infants, and also exhibited stationary play, chasing play, and initiated play more frequently than females. Such sex differences appear to be robust in macaques and have been reported in a variety of housing conditions. male and female infants did not differ in the amount of time spent at particular distances from their mothers, and mothers were not found to behave differently towards sons and daughters, using measures of restraint, rejection, and grooming. These results are in contrast to previous studies on singly-housed mother-infant pairs but similar to those on free-ranging populations. Mothers did behave differently towards their infants depending upon the mother's rank and previous number of offspring. These maternal characteristics may have significant consequences for the behavioural development of both male and female infant primates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-77
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000


  • Sex differences
  • Infant development
  • Rhesus macaques


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