The ability of female rats to express maternal behavior following pre- or postpuberally-administered lesions of the medial preoptic area (MPOA) was investigated. Female Sprague-Dawley rats were electrolytically or sham-lesioned at either 28-30 days of age or 65-70 days of age and housed together in groups of 6-8 in "enriched" environments. Subsequently, the animals were mated and moved to individual cages just prior to parturition. Indices of maternal proficiency included nest ratings, pup retrieval time, percentage of pups with milk in their stomachs, and percentage of pup mortality. All animals in which lesions had substantially damaged the MPOA demonstrated significant deficits in all indices. Age at which the lesion was administered had no effect. In contrast to the recovery of male sexual behavior that has been reported for rats following prepuberally administered MPOA lesions, no recovery of maternal behaviors was seen in this study. Reasons for this lack of recovery may include the greater complexity of physiological and behavioral processes involved in maternal behavior in comparison to the rather stereotypical response patterns of male sexual behavior.