The development of behaviour, particularly play, in young baboons

Rowland, Charles Garnet (1983). The development of behaviour, particularly play, in young baboons. PhD thesis The Open University.



Baboons were observed in two British safari parks for 15 and 3 months. Quantitative data, on the frequencies of play and non-play motor patterns and on temporal associations between motor patterns, are used to provide a description of behaviour development and to investigate the validity and possible heterogeneity of the play category.

Infant development was comparable with that reported elsewhere for caged and wild macaques and baboons. Mothers tended to be restrictive, possibly because of stressful conditions in safari parks.

As infants became more independent they increasingly manipulated objects away from their mothers. Object manipulation was mostly nutritional but a measure of extended contact with objects is argued to be an index of investigation or manipulatory practice. There is no strong evidence to suggest this was a form of play.

Mobile activity was greatest while infants still associated closely with their mothers who were probably satisfying most of their nutritional needs.

Locomotor patterns appeared in play once they were established in the general repertoire; a result contrary to the practice hypothesis of play's function. Measures of play locomotor pattern frequency increased markedly at about 6 months. Playful behaviour may have become more beneficial. At that age the black natal colouration was finally lost; and without the social immunity which it might have afforded, infants more frequently performed potentially disruptive behaviours playfully. The development of play wrestling showed a change from a predominantly clinging to a predominantly manipulative form. This is discussed with reference to exercise regimes, age class of play partners and developing manipulative skills. The composition of play varied according to the difference between partners' ages.

Developmental and temporal clusters of motor patterns demonstrate that play, as defined in this study, was a heterogeneous but genuine phenomenon.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions