home | faq | registered students log-in | join our mailing list | e-mail us | to order

Parenting for Primates

by Harriet J. Smith, PhD

This course meets the qualifications for 7 hours of continuing education

Parenting for Primates
Harriet J. Smith

What parent hasn't wondered "What do I do now?" as a baby cries or a teenager glares? Making babies may come naturally, but knowing how to raise them doesn't. As primatologist-turned-psychologist Harriet J. Smith shows in this lively safari through the world of primates, parenting by primates isn't instinctive, and that's just as true for monkeys and apes as it is for humans.

In this natural history of primate parenting, Smith compares parenting by nonhuman and human primates. In a narrative rich with vivid anecdotes derived from interviews with primatologists, from her own experience breeding cottontop tamarin monkeys for over thirty years, and from her clinical psychology practice, Smith describes the thousand and one ways that primate mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, and even babysitters care for their offspring, from infancy through young adulthood.

Smith learned the hard way that hand-raised cottontop tamarins often mature into incompetent parents. Her observation of inadequate parenting by cottontops plus her clinical work with troubled human families sparked her interest in the process of how primates become "good-enough" parents. The story of how she trained her tamarins to become adequate parents lays the foundation for discussions about the crucial role of early experience on parenting in primates, and how certain types of experiences, such as anxiety and social isolation, can trigger neglectful or abusive parenting.

Smith reveals diverse strategies for parenting by primates, but she also identifies parenting behaviors crucial to the survival and development of primate youngsters that have stood the test of time.

source: Harvard University Press




Parents looking for something new and useful among the plethora of books on childrearing could do a lot worse than this fascinating look at the close link between human and ape families by Smith, a primatologist and clinical psychologist. In a rigorously scientific yet highly readable style, Smith describes normal and abnormal parenting behaviors in human and nonhuman primates...After all the evidence is in, Smith argues for a sensible view of human parenting that could let many parents breathe easier.
--Publishers Weekly

Emerging from a fusion of Smith's training and education in primatology and clinical psychology, this look at parental behavior in primates examines both the nonhuman and the human members of the group. In a highly descriptive and nontechnical writing style, Smith compares and contrasts the natural history of parenting in species ranging from the tiny cotton-top tamarin to chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans. Opening with a chapter describing how she taught inexperienced parents in her cotton-top tamarin colony to care for their offspring, the author then looks at various phases of parenting in separate chapters. As mothers provide the majority of parental care in most species, she examines primate mothers first. Fathers play varying roles in different species, and in different human cultures, and these myriad functions fill the next chapter. Babysitters, weaning, the lives of juveniles, and how parents empty the nest not only view the changing duties of parenthood, but also continue the author's compare-and-contrast approach. A final chapter answers the question of how much parents matter. This engrossing book will interest all human primate parents.
--Nancy Bent, Booklist

This fascinating book provides a new evolutionary perspective on the multi-female and multi-male society (multi-male group) as a social community for parenting...this book is helpful to anyone preparing for parenting. The book shows how parenting requires certain key experiences and a proper living environment...The vivid descriptions of primate parenting also suggest the evolutionary backgrounds to these phenomena. Thus this book is also useful to students and researchers in primatology.
--Ichirou Tanaka, Primates

Harriet Smith is both an expert in primate social development and an experienced clinical psychologist working with family problems. The science of primate development is excellent and lucidly presented, as might be expected given her background, and she has covered almost every topic...All these topics are handled with skill and knowledge, well supported with references to the recent major primate literature...Smith makes an interesting and useful case for using primate parenting to understand some of what goes wrong in families, and she is generally cautious in her interpretations. But the value of the book is less in its primatology, excellent as that is, and more in getting humans, including other clinicians, to appreciate the varied array of parenting styles available to primates as a group.
--Phyllis C. Lee, Primate Eye

In this unique book, a primatologist-turned-psychologist offers an evolutionary biological perspective on parenting. Her descriptions of nonhuman primate parenting, from baboons to chimpanzees to cottontop tamarins, benefit from her personal experience as a primate observer, her command of the scientific literature, and her gifts as an engaging writer. This book clearly illustrates how watching nonhuman primate parents can teach us something about how we human primates parent.
--Lynn Fairbanks, director, Center for Primate Neuroethology, UCLA

Parenting for Primates is a delightful combination of hard facts and good stories about us and our close relatives. Harriet Smith shows us superdads, devoted and abusive parents, and blended families among nonhuman and human primates too. An important and timely book.
--Marc Bekoff, author of Minding Animals

It is one thing to be a student of primate behavior, another to be a clinical psychologist working with people; put the two together, though, and the engaging result is Harriet Smith's masterful Parenting for Primates. It has much to offer to those who raise children as well as to those who study child development and the family.
--Jay Belsky, Director, Institute for the Study of Children, Families, and Social Issues, University of London

Harriet Smith combines her expertise in primatology with her experience as a clinical psychologist to create a vivid portrait of how primate parenting can help us human primates be better parents. She shows that for all primates, successful parenting is hard work, and far from 'natural.' It requires learning, experience, and help. Infants need continuous attention, and that means that mothers need practically continuous help. This is a fascinating book, for anyone who cares about quality child rearing.
--Charles T. Snowdon, Hilldale Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Harriet Smith's startling collection of enlightening research and provocative anecdotes shows us the many ways our furry cousins form their families and raise their young. Her revelations are an indispensable guide for anyone attempting to parent young primates--human or otherwise.
--Frank S. Pittman III, M.D., author of Man Enough: Fathers, Sons and the Search for Masculinity

Please join us in this 7 unit course.

Learning Objectives

In this 7 unit course clinicians will be able to :

  1.  Describe the primate recipe for mothering.
  2.  Discuss the genetic, environmental, and experiential factors that the determine the adequacy of maternal behavior.
  3.  Describe the diversity of paternal styles and behavior among primate fathers.
  4.  State the primate rules for the safe use of babysitters.
  5.  Explain the evolutionary prescription for the withdrawal of parental care as offspring grow up.
  6.  Describe how parents wean their young from the breast, back, and bed.
  7.  Discuss how parenting changes as youngsters reach adolescence and young adulthood.
  8.  State the risks to children stemming from the practice of serial monogamy (remarriage) in humans.
  9.  State the primate rules for successful single parenting.
  10.  Explain the risk factors for child maltreatment (abuse and neglect), and why maltreatment is more prevalent in humans than in monkeys and apes.


This course consists of a post-test based upon reading the text. There is no online material to read. After you pass the post-test, you may print out your own certificate.

is approved by the:

maintains responsibility for the program.



how it works

Due to the wonders of technology, the minute you submit your order over our secure line, it is encrypted, and processed safely and securely by Authorize.net, a secure web processor. Or, if you prefer, call us toll-free 888-777-3773.

You will immediately receive confirmation of your order, your password and how to access the course material. (Please do not block e-mails from classes@psychceu.com, orders@psychceu.com and info@psychceu.com)

If you ordered an online course, you can begin to take the course immediately.

You will receive instructions, via e-mail, on how to take your test online.

Contact us or call if you need technical support.

Your test will be graded online, so the moment you have passed, you may print out your certificate of completion.

That's it! You are done!

To receive credit students must
  • register for the course (order on-line or call toll-free 888-777-3773), after which you will receive the Post-Test. 
  • the cost of the course is $99, the book is an additional $29.95 +shipping and handling
  • read Parenting for Primates

Harriet J. Smith, PhD

Hardcover: 394 pages
Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 1, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0674019385


  • Pass the post-test
  • Upon passing the test, you print your own certificate of completion

Parenting for Primates, is a natural history of primate parenting, comparing human parenting with that of monkeys and apes.  Parenting for Primates is different from other popular science books that have tackled the subject of parent-child relationships, which typically limit discussion to the parenting behavior of mothers with their infants.  In contrast Parenting for Primates focuses on parenting by mothers, fathers, and extended family, and examines both how parenting varies with mating system and changes as youngsters grow up.


            Parenting for Primates falls into the genre of popular science.  Its intended audience includes mental health professionals and bright general readers interested in a comprehensive review of the psychology and evolutionary biology of parenting by human and nonhuman primates.  Unlike many popular science books written by academics, Parenting for Primates is both a scholarly treatment of parenting in primates (supported by over 400 references) and reader-friendly.


            Parenting for Primates thoroughly explores four aspects of primate parenting.  The first four chapters review parental care of human and nonhuman primate infants by mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and babysitters.  How parenting changes as offspring grow up is the topic of the next section of the book, with chapters about parenting toddlers, pre-teens, and adolescents/young adults.  How mating systems (monogamy, polygyny, or parenting solo) influence parenting behavior is the focus of the next two chapters.  The final chapters cover the etiology, nature, and extent of abuse and neglect by primate parents, and the genetic influences on parental behavior.           


            Each chapter begins with one or two vignettes that set the stage for the topics to be covered.  Embedded within each chapter are various primate “tales” (anecdotes about patients from the author’s clinical psychology practice, her interviews of primatologists, or from her experiences managing a breeding colony of cottontop tamarin monkeys) that are germane to the discussion.  The stories about human and nonhuman primates are funny, tragic, endearing, or appalling, depending on the subject matter. 



Table of Contents 

Parenting for Primates
Harriet J. Smith


1. Learning to Parent

2. The Primate Recipe for Mothering

3. The Diversity of Primate Fathering

4. The Babysitters' Club

5. Weaning Wars

6. The Quiet Years

7. Emptying the Nest

8. Parenting with Partners

9. Parenting Solo

10. The Dark Side of Parenting

11. How Much Do Parents Matter?

Who's Who among Nonhuman Primates





Harriet J. Smith, PhD,has practiced as a clinical psychologist for 25 years.  She began her career, however, as a primatologist and managed a colony of cottontop tamarin monkeys in her home for 30 years.  During her three years as a post-doctoral staff fellow at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, she published multiple journal articles on the vocal behavior of squirrel monkeys and spent four months in the Peruvian rainforest observing wild primates.  She then retrained in clinical psychology at George Washington University and completed her internship in clinical psychology in 1983. 


With her background in comparative and clinical psychology, Smith became very interested in how primates, human and nonhuman, become good-enough parents.  Her hand-raised tamarin pairs grew up to be incompetent parents and rejected each litter at the moment of birth.  In the course of bottle-feeding countless infant monkeys, Smith wondered how primates actually acquire the necessary skills to become adequate parents.  As she simultaneously raised the orphaned monkeys, her own two children, and worked with troubled families, Smith decided to survey the literature on primate parenting (in monkeys, apes, humans in traditional societies, and humans in industrial societies) in the hopes of understanding how competent parenting develops.


Harriet Smith earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Arizona department of psychology and her post-doctoral retraining certificate in clinical psychology from George Washington University.


Take the test online!
Print out your own certificate!
This course counts as a 'regular' (not self-study) course by the CA BBS!


To order


e-mail us!

Frequently Asked Questions



APA Ethics

We do adhere to the American Psychological Association's Ethical Principles of Psychologists. Our courses are carefully screened by the Planning Committee to adhere to APA standards. We also require authors who compose Internet courses specifically for us follow APA ethical standards.

Many of our courses contain case material, and may use the methods of qualitative research and analysis, in-depth interviews and ethnographic studies. The psychotherapeutic techniques depicted may include play therapy, sandplay therapy, dream analysis, drawing analysis, client and therapist self-report, etc. The materials presented may be considered non-traditional and may be controversial, and may not have widespread endorsement within the profession. www.psychceu.com maintains responsibility for the program and its content.

© 2021. www.psychceu.com. all rights reserved